Sports Desk, Nov 23 (EFE).- Cristiano Ronaldo scored a record-extending 140th career Champions League goal Tuesday as Manchester United beat Villarreal 2-0 to qualify for the knockout stage as Group F winners.
Barcelona, in their second match since club legend Xavi Hernandez took charge as coach, were clearly the better side against Benfica but had to settle for a scoreless draw that leaves them with their backs against the wall heading into the final group state match.
In London, Champions League holders Chelsea avenged a 1-0 loss to Juventus on Match Day 2 in Turin, pounding the Bianconeri 4-0 to go level on points with Italian club and claim the lead in Group H on goal difference.
Reigning Europa League champions Villarreal lost to United 2-1 in September at Old Trafford on a Ronaldo goal in stoppage time and seemingly ageless Portuguese striker proved to be their nemesis again on Tuesday.
The sides were deadlocked 0-0 in the 78th minute when the 36-year-old exploited a mistake by Villarreal goalkeeper Gero Rulli to give the Red Devils the advantage. Jadon Sancho added a goal – his first since joining United – in the final minute of regulation.
United, under the direction of interim coach Michael Carrick, improved to 10 points, 3 better than Villarreal, and if the sides were to end the stage level on points, the Premier League club would prevail on head-to-head.
The outcome of Villarreal’s Dec. 8 showdown with third-place Atalanta in Bergamo will decide which of those teams advances.
While Barça looked much improved from the squad that lost their first two games of the group stage, they were unable to capitalize on their dominance under a driving rain at Camp Nou.
Ronald Araujo managed to put the ball in the Benfica net late in regulation only to see the goal disallowed for an offside, though not before he injured himself in a too-hasty celebration.
Even so, Barça could count themselves lucky to get the point, as Benfica’s Haris Seferovic squandered a spectacular opportunity in stoppage time.
Barcelona are second in Group E with 7 points, 2 ahead of Benfica.
But while Benfica’s final game is against winless Dynamo Kiev, Xavi and his men must travel to Munich to face group winners Bayern, who have yet to drop a point.
Juve brought their perfect record in the Champions League campaign into Stamford Bridge on Tuesday and left with their pride badly dented.
The Blues had 61 percent possession and put 8 shots on target to just 2 for the visitors. Chelsea led 1-0 at the break on Trevoh Chalobah’s goal in the 25th minute and were up 3-0 at the hour mark after Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi scored just three minutes apart.
Timo Werner completed the rout with a goal in the 95th minute.
The two clubs are level on points at 12, but Chelsea have a substantial edge on goal difference and look likely to finish in the top spot. EFE