PARIS: Robert Lewandowski set Bayern Munich on the way to a 3-1 Champions League win over Salzburg on Wednesday as the holders joined Manchester City in qualifying for the last 16 with two group games to spare, while Liverpool went down to defeat and Marseille are now the owners of an unwanted record. On a night when clubs marked news of the death of Diego Maradona by holding a minute’s silence in memory of the Argentine before all Champions League games, Bayern eased to a record-extending 15th straight win in the competition.
Lewandowski scored the opener just before half-time at an empty Allianz Arena, his 14th goal of the season and also his 71st altogether in the Champions League, leaving him level with Real Madrid great Raul in third place on the all-time list behind Cristiano Ronaldo (131) and Lionel Messi (118).
Kingsley Coman scored Bayern’s second and then crossed for Leroy Sane to head in their third, before Mergim Berisha pulled a goal back for the Austrian champions. Marc Roca was sent off for Bayern, but they have a maximum 12 points and are guaranteed to advance as Group A winners, while Atletico Madrid sit second but continue to toil in Europe this season after being held 0-0 at home by Lokomotiv Moscow.
Pep Guardiola’s City earlier secured progress as Phil Foden swept in from a Raheem Sterling back-heel to secure a 1-0 win away to Olympiakos in Greece, their fourth win out of four in Group C. City had 21 attempts on goal and their bluntness in attack is a source of concern, even if their European progress provides a tonic to their mediocre Premier League form. “It will come, we would love to do more, but one day it will come and will break everything,” said Guardiola, whose side now just need a point from their final two matches to top the group.
Unlucky 13 for Marseille
Second-place Porto are on the brink of joining them in qualifying after a 2-0 win at Marseille, which was the French side’s 13th consecutive defeat in the competition stretching over three campaigns going back to 2011-12. The Nigerian Zaidu Sanusi gave Porto the lead six minutes before half-time and Sergio Oliveira scored a second-half penalty after on-loan Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic had been sent off for the Portuguese side.
Marseille, who had defender Leonardo Balerdi sent off, cannot now qualify for the last 16. “We have hit rock-bottom,” said Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas. Six-time European champions Liverpool are not yet sure of progressing to the next round after going down 2-0 to Atalanta at Anfield. Three weeks after beating the same side 5-0 in Italy, Liverpool struggled with a weakened starting line-up, and Josip Ilicic put Atalanta in front on the hour mark before German international Robin Gosens got the second goal.
“A deserved defeat in a difficult game,” was how Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp summed up the game. Liverpool are top of Group D on nine points, two points clear of Atalanta and Ajax, who were 3-1 winners at home to Midtjylland. Second-half goals by Ryan Gravenberch, Noussair Mazraoui and David Neres boosted Ajax’s hopes, with Awer Mabil getting a consolation from the penalty spot for the Danes who had captain Erik Sviatchenko sent off late on and are yet to register a point. Ajax go to Liverpool next week.
Hazard on target for Real
Meanwhile, Inter Milan are on the brink of being eliminated in the group stage after Arturo Vidal was sent off as they went down 2-0 at home to Real Madrid. Eden Hazard gave the visitors an early lead from the penalty spot at San Siro for his first Champions League goal in a Real shirt, and Vidal was sent off before the break after seeing two yellow cards for dissent in quick succession.
A Rodrygo shot went in off Achraf Hakimi in the second half to make it 2-0, and Real are now on course to qualify from Group B after losing 3-2 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in their first game. Shakhtar lost 4-0 to Borussia Moenchengladbach, with Lars Stindl scoring a penalty and Nico Elvedi, Breel Embolo and Oscar Wendt also on target to keep the Germans on top of the group. Barcelona, Juventus, Chelsea and Sevilla punched their tickets to the knockout phase on Tuesday. – AFP