Nigeria-Born Noah Okafor Fires Salzburg To Last 16

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Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage for the first time in over 20 years with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday, as Benfica, French champions Lille and Red Bull Salzburg all qualified for the last 16.

Salzburg, Austrian champions in each of the last eight seasons, also progressed thanks to a 1-0 win over Sevilla, with Noah Okafor scoring the only goal before the Spaniards had Joan Jordan sent off.

It is the first time Salzburg have reached the knockout phase, while Sevilla join the likes of Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League — that may suit them given they have won that trophy or its predecessor the UEFA Cup a record six times, all since 2006.

Meanwhile, Chelsea missed out on first place in their group to Juventus after conceding a late equaliser away to Zenit Saint Petersburg, while snow in northern Italy forced the postponement of Atalanta’s decisive game against Villarreal.

Barcelona started the day in second place in Group E but had to win away to Bayern Munich to be sure of going through, otherwise they risked being overtaken by Benfica.

Xavi Hernandez’s side were duly outclassed by an already-qualified Bayern who made it six wins out of six in the group, with Thomas Mueller’s 34th-minute header just crossing the line before Ronald Araujo could clear.

The game was played behind closed doors at the Allianz Arena due to coronavirus restrictions in Bavaria, but that did not handicap Bayern, with Leroy Sane’s powerful strike doubling their lead before the break and then Jamal Musiala making it 3-0 just after the hour.

– ‘A new era’ -The Catalans were knocked out as Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev 2-0 in Lisbon, first-half goals by Roman Yaremchuk and Gilberto seeing them snatch second and a place in next Monday’s draw for the last 16.

We didn’t compete. This is the Champions League but it is our reality and we have to face up to it,” Xavi told Spanish media.

“We are starting a new era from zero. Our objective is the Champions League, not the Europa League.”

Barcelona, who scored just twice in the group stage, had appeared in the knockout rounds of the Champions League in each of the last 17 seasons, last missing out in 2003-04 when they played in the UEFA Cup after coming sixth in La Liga the previous year.

They last went out of the Champions League in the group stage in 2000/01 when a team featuring a 20-year-old Xavi finished third in their section behind AC Milan and Leeds United.

The five-time European champions will now drop into the Europa League knockout-round play-offs in February.

– Juve pip Chelsea –
In contrast Lille are through to the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in 15 years after beating Wolfsburg 3-1 in Germany to top Group

Burak Yilmaz gave Lille an early lead and Canadian striker Jonathan David made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute before Angel Gomes got their third. Renato Steffen got a late consolation.

 

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