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Champions League: Arsenal, Real Madrid Top Groups as Man United Falter

In a frenetic and high-scoring night of Champions League football, Arsenal scored six goals to advance to the knockout rounds as group winners, while Manchester United stayed last in their group despite scoring three goals away from home.

Arsenal’s 6-0 rout of Lens ensured second-placed PSV Eindhoven – who won 3-2 in stoppage time at Sevilla – also advanced to the round of 16 from Group B on Wednesday night.

There are now 12 confirmed teams in the round of 16 draw set to take place on December 18, but Manchester United are in serious danger of missing out.

The three-time European champions led by two goals after 18 minutes at Galatasaray and 3-2 early in the second half but were pegged back again in a wild 3-3 draw.

United have also suffered 4-3 losses at Bayern Munich and second-placed Copenhagen this season.

“As a team, we have to learn from it because we are conceding too many goals and it is unnecessary and avoidable,” United manager Erik ten Hag said.

A hat-trick of three-goal games on their travels has brought just a single point back for ten Hag’s players, who need to beat Bayern at Old Trafford in two weeks.

Only four other Champions League teams this season have scored more than United’s 12-goal total and they all top their groups and have advanced to the knockout phase.

Real Madrid are among them and finish atop Group C after a 4-2 win over second-placed Napoli.

Teams that top their standings are seeded in the round-of-16 draw and avoid other group winners like defending champions Manchester City. Teams also cannot be drawn against opponents from their own country.

Bayern drew 0-0 with Copenhagen, one of two games with no goals on a night when the other six games delivered 31.

Real Sociedad were held 0-0 by Salzburg to set up a final-day showdown with second-placed Inter Milan for the top spot in Group D. Both Sociedad and Inter already advanced three weeks ago.

Inter produced the night’s other second-half fightback in a 3-3 draw at Benfica, who wasted a three-goal lead at halftime earned by Joao Mario’s hat trick against his former club.

Braga drew 1-1 with Union Berlin and can still advance by winning at Napoli.

‘Bellingham is a gift to football’

Jude Bellingham was the standout player for Real Madrid again, in what is becoming the 20-year-old England star’s routine excellence this season.

Bellingham scored Madrid’s second goal against Napoli to make it four goals in four Champions League games for his new club and provided an assist for Joselu in stoppage time.

“Bellingham is a gift to football, not just this club,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

“The world’s delighted to see a guy with this talent, potential, promise and hopefully, he’ll just continue as he is.”

Bellingham now has scored 15 goals in his first 16 matches with Madrid wearing the number five shirt of the great Zinedine Zidane.

“Bellingham has surprised everyone. No one could have expected this,” Ancelotti said.

Onana keeps piling on the errors

Andre Onana’s goalkeeping errors have cost Manchester United in losses at Bayern and at home to Galatasaray and almost led to another defeat at Istanbul.

For each of Hakim Ziyech’s two goals from free kicks, Onana’s positional play or handling could be faulted.

“We win and lose together,” ten Hag said when asked about Onana who he also coached at Ajax.

“He is okay. As I said, it is not about individuals. Of course, individual errors in football can make a difference and you take responsibility for it but it is always about the team.”

Manchester United could end up third in their group even if they beat Bayern on December 12, the same night Copenhagen host Galatasaray.

“It’s always me (who is to blame for throwing away leads). I am responsible for this,” the Dutchman told TNT Sports.

“We are in the right direction, so I know where we have to go and which steps we have to take and I’m sure we will be successful in the long term.

“If we want to stay in the Champions League, we have to win the next game.”

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group A - Galatasaray v Manchester United - RAMS Park, Istanbul, Turkey - November 29, 2023 Galatasaray's Hakim Ziyech scores their second goal past Manchester United's Andre Onana REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Galatasaray’s Hakim Ziyech scores their second goal past Manchester United’s Andre Onana [Murad Sezer/Reuters

Route to Europa League

Third place in a Champions League group stage ensures European football into the new year, albeit in the second-tier Europa League as all eight third-place teams enter the knockout playoff round against runners-up from Europa League groups.

Salzburg need only a draw at home to Benfica to clinch third place in Group D, while Europa League title holders Sevilla can rise off the bottom of Group B by winning at Lens and getting back into the competition they won seven times in the past 18 seasons.

Winning the Europa title also is a ticket back to the Champions League next season.

Source : Al Jazeera