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  • PSG proved to not be invincible in the Champions League after all, but it'll still go through to the knockout stage as a group winner, along with Manchester United, Barcelona and Roma.
By Jonathan Wilson
December 05, 2017

Juventus, Roma, Manchester United and Basel all secured qualification to the knockout stage of the Champions League on the final day of fixtures in Groups A-D, while Celtic sealed its place in the Europa League knockout rounds despite a home defeat to Anderlecht.

Chelsea, which was already though, drew 1-1 against Atletico Madrid, which allowed Roma to take top spot with a 1-0 victory over Qarabag. Roma was a little scrappy but took the lead eight minutes into the second half as Diego Perotti nodded in after Edin Dzeko’s initial effort had been saved.

Saul Niguez got the Atletico goal at Stamford Bridge, escaping the marking of Tiemoue Bakayoko to head in Fernando Torres’s flick-on, but a Stefan Savic own-goal leveled the score with a quarter of an hour remaining. Atletico’s exit and subsequent drop down to the Europa League means two of last season’s semifinalists will not be in the last 16, with Monaco already out, guaranteed last place in its group.

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Juventus clinched its place in the last 16 with a 1-0 victory away to Olympiakos. Juan Cuadrado put Juve ahead after 16 minutes, knocking in an Alex Sandro cross from close range, and Federico Bernardeschi smashed in a second from the corner of the box in the final minute to remove any lingering doubt.

Sporting CP finished third, having lost 2-0 to Barcelona, with Paco Alcacer heading in the first and former Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu turning a cross into his own net for the second, which cemented Barcelona's place atop the group.

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Basel sealed its place in the last 16 with a comprehensive 2-0 win at Benfica. If finished behind Manchester United, which struck twice in two minutes to come from behind and beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 to seal the top spot in Group A.

In Group B, Bayern would have had to beat Paris Saint-Germain by four goals to take the top spot and was halfway there through 45 minutes before winning 3-1.

It was a similar story in the other game in the group, where Anderlecht needed a three-goal win to displace Celtic from the Europa League qualifying slot. A Jozo Simunovic own goal gave the Belgian champions a 1-0 win, but that was not enough, and Brendan Rodgers' side will continue in Europe, albeit a step down.

Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League and some of the sides going through:

CONCERNS ARISING FOR PSG

PSG has been dominant this season both in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, racking up a record number if goals in the group stage. But it is one thing to put six past Metz or seven past Celtic, quite another to beat other members of Europe’s elite, particularly when the club's defense has been tested so little.

With both PSG and Bayern through, and Bayern needing a four-goal win to pinch top spot, this could easily have been a drab affair with both sides going through the motions. But it developed into a tense, slightly tetchy game, as Bayern, rediscovering some of the ruthlessness it had been lacking recently, exposed PSG’s defensive laxity. PSG had suffered its first defeat of the season on Saturday, losing to 2-1 Strasbourg, it was poor again on Tuesday. The fear must be that the club's dominance has led to complacency.

Robert Lewandowski put Bayern ahead after eight minutes, having been carelessly played onside, and Corentin Tolisso made it 2-0 from James Rodriguez’s cross just before halftime. Any thought Bayern might take top spot disappeared six minutes into the second half, though, as Edinson Cavani flicked the ball on for Kylian Mbappe to pull one back. Tolisso restored the two-goal lead and made it 3-1 after a fine run and cut-back from the Paris-born Kingsley Coman.

Bayern has lost just once since Jupp Heynckes replaced Carlo Ancelotti a week after the defeat to PSG without always being entirely convincing. Here, though, even without Javi Martinez, there was a sense of balance that has been so lacking this season–and for PSG, a genuine wake-up call heading into the knockout stage, where the pressure will rise under the immense expectations brought on by its summer of spending.


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LUKAKU, RASHFORD END DROUGHTS FOR FIRST-PLACE UNITED

Romelu Lukaku had scored one goal in his last 12 club matches and Marcus Rashford hadn’t scored in nine games, but both were on target as Manchester United came from behind to beat CSKA with two goals in two second-half minutes.

CSKA had taken the lead on the stroke of halftime, with Vitinho’s shot glancing in off the back of Alan Dzagoev. There were appeals for offside, but he was being played on by Daley Blind, who had slid off the pitch as he had tried to cut out the initial cross.

Man United, which would only have been eliminated had it lost by seven, had been the better side, but just as it began to seem this might be a repeat of its defeat to Basel two weeks ago, when it seemed to sleepwalk to defeat, Lukaku leveled the score, converting a Paul Pogba pass with a falling volley. Rashford added the winner almost immediately after, calmly drilling a left-footed finish past a static Igor Akinfeev as he ran on to a chipped Juan Mata pass.

Like chief rival Manchester City, United will go through as a group winner and be in the top pot in Monday's last-16 draw.

COULD BASEL PROVIDE LAST-16 CHALLENGE?

Basel made it through to the knockout stage for the first time since 2011-12. it was well-beaten away to Manchester United in the opening match day and then suffered a slightly unfortunate 2-1 home loss to CSKA, but it has been generally impressive in this campaign. Raphael Wicky’s side plays quick, purposeful football, making full use of the flanks. The first goal of the night came from the right, with Michael Lang sending over a perfect, arching cross for Mohamed Elyounoussi to convert. The 20-year-old Swiss striker Dmitri Oberlin headed in the second from close range following a corner.

Basel will surely be an underdog no matter who it is drawn against in the last 16, but it won't make for an easy out.

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