VILLARREAL // The holders Manchester United and Villarreal cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare yesterday after sharing their fourth successive goalless draw. The top two have nine points from five matches in Group E, four points ahead of AaB Aalborg who beat Celtic 2-1 in Denmark. Diego Lopez of Villarreal was the busier goalkeeper, turning a Cristiano Ronaldo drive on to the bar in the first half and saving a Wayne Rooney volley at close quarters in the second.
Joan Capdevila, left back for the Spanish side, was sent off eight minutes from time for a dangerous high tackle on Ronaldo. It was a straight red card and the United manager Alex Ferguson, who had spoken before the match of Ronaldo's need for protection from rough defenders, praised the Italian referee Roberto Rosetti. "A strong referee is always an advantage in football today," Ferguson told ITV Sport. "In the second half we improved our possession of the ball. I'm satisfied with our performance, we controlled the game."
In last night's other games, a burst of three goals in 14 second-half minutes powered Bayern Munich into the last 16. Bayern were the most emphatic winners as Miroslav Klose scored twice and set up a third for Luca Toni in their 3-0 home win over Group F rivals Steaua Bucharest. "We're delighted. We're through to the last 16 with a game to spare and the way we did it was fantastic," said the Bayern coach Juergen Klinsmann. "We've felt for the last six or eight weeks that we're really gaining momentum."
Elsewhere in Group F, Olympique Lyon took their usual place in the knockout stage with a 2-1 triumph at Fiorentina thanks to goals by Jean Makoun and Karim Benzema. The top two each have 11 points from five matches and meet in France next month to decide who wins the group. Real Madrid and Porto also progressed with wins to join Juventus, who were already through. Barcelona and Sporting had secured their progress from Group C in the previous round of fixtures, leaving six other slots up for grabs, some of which could be filled tomorrow.
The Nine-times European champions Real advanced with a 1-0 win at BATE Borisov in freezing conditions in Belarus, the only goal coming from Raul after seven minutes. The victory made sure Real got back on track after home and away defeats by Group H leaders Juventus, who drew 0-0 at Zenit St Petersburg yesterday.