Benfica snatch group crown from PSG; AC Milan advance

Sports Desk, Nov 2 (EFE).- Benfica pummeled Maccabi Haifa 6-1 Wednesday to pip Paris Saint-Germain for the top spot in Champions League Group H and AC Milan beat RB Salzburg 4-0 to reach the knockout stage for the first time in eight years.

The other open spot heading into the the final match day of the opening stage was in Group F, where RB Leipzig triumphed 4-0 over Shakhtar Donetsk to finish second behind Real Madrid.

The Ukrainian side will play on in the Europa League, as will three other teams who lost on Wednesday: Salzburg, Sevilla and Juventus.

PSG and Benfica finished level on points at 14 and both of their clashes in the group stage ended in draws. The two sides also had identical goal differences and it was by virtue of more away goals that the Portuguese team advanced as one of the eight top seeds.

The Parisians traveled to Turin for a contest against a Juve squad suffering through their worst-ever Champions League campaign and Kylian Mbappe needed just 13 minutes to put the visitors up 1-0.

With six minutes left in the first half, 35-year-old Leonardo Bonucci brought the Bianconeri level.

Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny turned aside shots from Mbappe and Sergio Ramos to keep it 1-1 until the 69th minute, when PSG’s Nuno Mendes scored within seconds of coming on as a sub.

Manuel Locatelli thought he had equalized again for the hosts in the 78th, but the offside flag went up and the game ended 2-1.

Maccabi welcomed Benfica to Haifa hoping to earn a point and beat out Juve for the Europa League slot and the score at the break was 1-1, as Tjaronn Chery’s converted a penalty in the 26th minute to put the home side on terms after Goncalo Ramos’ goal for Benfica.

But five Benfica goals in the second half – Peter Musa, Alex Grimaldo, Rafa Silva, Henrique Araujo and Joao Maria – rang down the curtain on Maccabi’s European adventure.

Salzburg came into the San Siro with the prospect of punching their ticket to the round of 16 with a win against AC Milan, who had gone more than a decade without winning successive games in Champions League.

Olivier Giroud, 36, opened the scoring for the Rossoneri in the 14th minute, but the Red Bulls reacted and looked set to put the hosts under pressure.

But the picture changed just seconds into the second half when Rade Kunic made it 2-0.

Giroud extended the advantage to 3-0 in the 57th minute with his second of the night and the veteran French striker assisted on Junior Messias’ goal in stoppage time.

Little was at stake Wednesday in Group G, as Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund were already through to the knockout stage as the respective first- and second-place teams.

City coach Pep Guardiola took the opportunity to rest some of his starters and visiting Sevilla went ahead in the 31st minute with a goal by Rafa Mir.

The hosts pulled level in the 52nd minute on 17-year-old Rico Lewis’ first senior goal. Julian Alvarez made it 2-1 for City in the 73rd and Riyad Mahrez added a third goal 10 minutes later.

Dortmund and Copenhagen drew 1-1 in the other Group G match.

Dinamo Zagreb, who had a chance to finish third in Group E with a victory against group winners Chelsea, managed to strike first at Stamford Bridge.

Bruno Petkovic staked the visitors to a lead in the 7th minute, only to Raheem Stirling respond for the Blues in the 18th. Denis Zakaria put Chelsea ahead 2-1 for good with a goal at the half-hour.

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