Manchester City beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on Wednesday but both clubs qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, along with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Sporting Lisbon.
Gabriel Jesus tapped in from Bernardo Silva’s deft knockdown on 76 minutes to settle an absorbing match at the Etihad after Raheem Sterling had cancelled out Kylian Mbappe’s goal.
Before Jesus sent the crowd wild in Manchester, Neymar shot wide to blow a golden chance to put the Parisians ahead.
Lionel Messi had a low-key game and Sergio Ramos, named among the substitutes, was not called on to make his PSG debut.
Pep Guardiola’s City, the beaten finalists last season, are guaranteed of winning Group A, while PSG qualified in second place despite the defeat because RB Leipzig thrashed Club Brugge 5-0 in Belgium.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino, in the city where he is being linked with the vacant Manchester United job, insisted his expensively-assembled side were showing improvement.
“We have to improve,” added Pochettino. “I am happy in the process. Things are better than one month ago and much better than two months ago. Little by little the team is going to improve.”
About the United rumours, the former Tottenham coach said: “We are living in a business that rumours are there, sometimes positive, sometimes negative.”
GUILTY VERDICT AND A GOAL
Karim Benzema scored just hours after being found guilty by a French court in a blackmail case as Real Madrid eased past Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 to reach the knockout stage.
The French striker notched his team’s third goal of a confident display in Transnistria after David Alaba’s free-kick and Toni Kroos’ strike as Real took revenge for their shock 2-1 loss to Sheriff in Madrid earlier this season.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said the court verdict, and the one-year suspended jail sentence Benzema received for his part in blackmailing former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sextape, had not affected the striker.
“We have not talked about it (the court verdict), he is calm, it is a subject concerning him that we have been talking about for a long time,” Ancelotti said.
The victory sent the Spanish giants back to the top of Group D, two points clear of second-placed Inter Milan, who also qualified for the last 16 after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 thanks to two Edin Dzeko goals.
Sporting Lisbon reached the knockout phase for the first time since the 2008-2009 season as they beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the Portuguese capital.
Pedro Goncalves netted twice as Sporting got the two-goal winning margin they needed to end the Germans’ hopes of advancing to the knock-out stages.
Dortmund’s campaign has been derailed by the continued absence of Erling Haaland with a hip injury and they will have to settle for a place in the Europa League.
Liverpool were already qualified for the last 16 going into their tie against Porto at Anfield and Thiago Alcantara’s superb low shot and Mohamed Salah’s sixth goal of this season’s group phase wrapped up a comfortable 2-0 win.
Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at home to AC Milan after a dramatic late winner from Milan substitute Junior Messias, a defeat that leaves the Spanish side bottom of Liverpool’s Group B.
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Diego Simeone’s team must beat Porto in their final game on December 7 and hope that Liverpool win away against AC Milan, who sit just a point behind the Portuguese club.
TEAMS THAT ARE THROUGH TO LAST 16…
– Ajax (NED)
– Bayern (GER)
– Chelsea (ENG)
– Inter (ITA)
– Juventus (ITA)
– Liverpool (ENG)
– Manchester City (ENG)
– Manchester United (ENG)
– PSG (FRA)
– Real Madrid (ESP)
– Sporting CP (POR)