FC Copenhagen celebrated clinching a place in the last 16 of the Champions League last night but holders Inter Milan will wait for this month's draw in trepidation as a meeting with Barcelona became a possibility.
Copenhagen clinch last 16 Champions League spot
LONDON // FC Copenhagen celebrated clinching a place in the last 16 of the Champions League last night but holders Inter Milan will wait for this month's draw in trepidation as a meeting with Barcelona became a possibility.
While Copenhagen were delighted they will continue to mix with the continent's big guns after their 3-1 win over Panathinaikos secured runners-up spot in Group D, Inter slumped 3-0 at Werder Bremen - a result that means the Italian club finished runners-up behind Tottenham Hotspur in Group A.
As well as Barca, Inter could also be paired with group winners Real Madrid or Manchester United, who topped their section with a 1-1 draw against Valencia at Old Trafford.
Martin Vingaard's strike, a Jesper Gronkjaer penalty and an own goal by Djibril Cisse did the trick for Copenhagen as they snatched one of four remaining places in the knockout stages still available as the group phase concludes this week.
The other three will be decided tonight.
"Towards the end of the group we twice had "match point" and that increased the pressure tonight," a relieved Copenhagen boss Stale Solbakken said. "I dare say we have one of the best defences in the Champions League."
Copenhagen, the first Danish club to reach the last 16 in the competition's present format, finished behind Barcelona who ended Russian side Rubin Kazan's hopes of squeezing through with a 2-0 win at the Nou Camp despite fielding a second-string side.
Andreu Fontas and Victor Vazquez were on target for the Catalans, who would probably relish being handed an early chance to gain revenge over Inter for their defeat in last year's final when the draw is made at UEFA headquarters in two weeks.
Manchester United's defence was finally breached after some eight hours of group-stage football when they conceded their first goal in this season's competition at home to Valencia in what was effectively a shootout for first place in Group C.
United's hopes of becoming the first club to go through the group stage without conceding ended in the 32nd minute when Pablo Hernandez fired Valencia in front. Anderson earned United a 1-1 draw and the point they required to top the group.
Manager Rafael Benitez can expect to come under pressure after Inter finished their group matches in something of a rut in northern Germany -- they have now lost seven times in all competitions this season, as many defeats as they suffered in the whole of the last campaign under Jose Mourinho.
Sebastian Proedl, Marko Arnautovic and Claudio Pizarro all scored for already-eliminated Bremen who also struck the woodwork twice against listless opponents.
"This was a match where we had already qualified. For me it is different. The important game was the last one with Twente," Benitez told Sky Italia.
Tottenham will enter the next phase of the tournament buoyant after banging in 18 goals in their six games having qualified for the first time.
The London club's latest goal burst came in a 3-3 draw at Dutch club Twente Enschede with Jermain Defoe scoring twice.
Twente, who go into the Europa League after coming third, suffered a terrible start when an "air-kick" by 40-year-old keeper Sander Boschker on his Champions League debut gifted the visitors a 12th minute lead.
Nacer Chadli's superb free kick completed the scoring to give Twente a deserved point.
"It was important we finished top of the group and I couldn't have asked for any more," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp told Sky Sports.
"This is just the way we play, we can't sit back."
Schalke will enter the last 16 draw as Group B winners after beating Benfica 2-1 in Lisbon.
Olympique Lyon were runners-up in the section after drawing 2-2 at home to Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv - a result that meant Benfica will play in the Europa League.