4 advance in Champions League, Liverpool risk early exit
GENEVA (AP) — As four teams advanced to the Champions League knockout round Wednesday, last season’s runner-up Liverpool edged closer to an early exit.
A 2-1 loss at Paris Saint-Germain in the night’s marquee match was Liverpool’s fifth straight away defeat in the competition, and sparked wild celebrations in Parc des Princes.
Liverpool, whose only shot on target was James Milner’s penalty to cut PSG’s lead in first-half stoppage time, fell to third place in Group C that has proved the tightest this season.
Still, a two-goal win over current group leader Napoli — which got two goals from Dries Mertens in beating Red Star Belgrade 3-1 — in two weeks’ time will send coach Juergen Klopp’s team into the Round of 16.
Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund ensured they will advance from Group A, and Porto won Group D with a game to spare with Schalke advancing as runner-up.
Barcelona began the week as the only team to qualify after four rounds of games, and was lifted by Lionel Messi’s sixth goal of the campaign to win 2-1 at PSV Eindhoven.
The five-time European champion clinched victory in Group B and will be seeded in the Round of 16 — guaranteed to be drawn against a group runner-up and with the second-leg game at home.
In a tense battle to join Barcelona in the Dec. 17 draw, Tottenham got an 80th-minute goal from substitute Christian Eriksen to beat Inter Milan 1-0 at Wembley Stadium. Tottenham avoided elimination and joined the Italians on seven points.
Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:
LIVERPOOL’S TRAVEL SICKNESS
The verve of Liverpool’s wins on the road last season — at Manchester City and Porto in the knockout rounds — has been badly missing with three straight losses in this group.
PSG’s 40-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had a relatively easy evening at Parc des Princes, while at the other end Liverpool’s Alisson had to make saves to keep the scoreline close.
The runaway French league leader unsettled Liverpool’s defense from the start. The hosts took a two-goal lead through left-back Juan Bernat’s shot in the 13th and Neymar finishing off a rapid attack fueled by Kylian Mbappe in the 37th.
An expected late surge by Liverpool never came, and Klopp’s side must now earn a third straight win at Anfield on Dec. 11 to advance.
Napoli has nine points, PSG eight and Liverpool six with no team yet to advance. Liverpool will go above Napoli on a head-to-head tiebreaker with a win by two clear goals over coach Carlo Ancelotti’s team. A Red Star win over PSG in Belgrade would also open the door to Liverpool.
On a tricky night for English clubs, Tottenham was heading out until Denmark playmaker Eriksen’s goal earned a reprieve.
Inter is perhaps still favored to finish runner-up behind Barcelona and end a seven-year absence from the Champions League knockout round.
The Italians finish their program at home to PSV, which has won all 13 games in the Dutch Eredivisie this season but failed to win in five Champions League games.
Tottenham next goes to Barcelona, which secured top spot in the group Wednesday with goals from Messi and Gerard Pique midway through the second half in Eindhoven. PSV got one back through Luuk de Jong.
An early kick off in Madrid saw Atletico take a second-minute lead over hapless Monaco, for whom Radamel Falcao missed a penalty. Koke’s goal was added to by Antoine Griezmann in the 24th, leaving Monaco and coach Thierry Henry adrift with just one point in Group A.
Atletico — whose Metropolitano Stadium hosts the final — is two points clear of Borussia Dortmund, which drew 0-0 with Club Brugge. It was a second straight clean sheet in the Champions League for the Belgian side’s American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath.
Brugge will finish third in the group and transfer to the Europa league Round of 32 in February.
PORTO, SCHALKE ADVANCE
The qualifying places in Group D were decided by the early kickoff in Moscow, where Lokomotiv beat Galatasaray 2-0 to earn its first points.
In Portugal, Porto and Schalke knew before kickoff they would both advance to the Round of 16. Porto secured top spot with a game to spare after a 3-1 win.