Barcelona, Atlético exit Champions League; Liverpool through
Barcelona was eliminated from the Champions League on Wednesday even before enduring yet another 3-0 beating by Bayern Munich.
Atlético Madrid also went out following an extraordinary sequence around a penalty awarded by video review after the final whistle of its 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen.
Atlético’s spot kick was saved before a frantic scramble in the goalmouth still could not bring the winning goal the Spanish club needed to prevent Porto advancing thanks to its 4-0 win earlier at group leader Club Brugge.
Two Spanish powers who were part of the failed Super League launch last year will now miss out on the round of 16 of Europe’s top competition.
Liverpool’s passage into the knockout stage with a game to spare was relatively calm in a 3-0 win at Ajax to join leader Napoli in advancing from free-scoring Group A, which has had 44 goals in 10 games.
In more stoppage-time drama with video review, Tottenham thought it had won Group D when Harry Kane shot the ball into Sporting Lisbon’s net with seconds left in a game tied at 1-1.
A long VAR check ruled Kane had been offside, a furious Tottenham coach Antonio Conte was shown a red card, and the most finely balanced group goes to the final round next week with all four teams having a chance to advance.
Group leader Tottenham plays at last-placed Marseille next Tuesday while Eintracht Frankfurt — which beat Marseille 2-1 on Wednesday — goes to Sporting.
The meeting between heavyweights in Barcelona was rendered meaningless before kickoff, when the five-time European champion’s hopes of advancing were ended by Inter Milan’s 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzeň in one of the early games.
Barcelona needed Inter to drop points and then still had to beat Bayern, which also beat the Spanish team 3-0 in two group meetings last season and won 2-0 at home in September.
The outcome was clear after Sadio Mané scored in the 10th minute. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting doubled the lead before halftime and Benjamin Pavard added a third in stoppage time.
Barcelona, even after signing former Bayern star Robert Lewandowski, has now fallen short of the round of 16 in back-to-back seasons since Lionel Messi left in August 2021 for Paris Saint-Germain.
Bayern and Napoli are the only teams with five straight wins in this group stage, and the Italian team’s 3-0 win against Rangers ran its goal tally to 20.
Atlético had to beat Leverkusen and got a corner at the end of stoppage time tied at 2-2. The danger was cleared and the final whistle blown before video review assistants spotted a handball.
French referee Clement Turpin consulted his screen at the halfway line and gave the penalty, but Belgium midfielder Yannick Carrasco’s effort was pushed away by goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky. The ball then looped up for Atlético’s Saúl Ñíguez to head against the crossbar. That in turn teed up Reinildo for a shot that looked goalbound but struck Carrasco’s ankle and bounced over the goal to safety.
Atlético, which lost lost in the final in 2014 and 2016, can now only hope to secure third place over Leverkusen in Group B and enter the Europa League knockout playoffs in February.
NOT SO SUPER
On Tuesday, Juventus was eliminated. One day later it was Barcelona’s turn. Two of the three rebel clubs still backing the failed Super League project are already out of the Champions League.
Embarrassment on the field is also a financial hit for Juventus and Barcelona, who each reported record losses this year.
Both missed out on several million euros (dollars) in result bonuses offered in the group stage and will not get the 9.6 million euros ($9.7 million) in prize money that UEFA awards clubs who reach the round of 16.
Barcelona, unlike Juventus, is at least sure of switching to the Europa League in February. That is worth 500,000 euros ($504,000) with seven-figure payments for advancing further.
In their legal challenge to UEFA, Super League holdouts Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid will receive a first, non-binding opinion from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Dec. 15.
Romelu Lukaku is back and scoring for Inter Milan after a two-month absence because of a hamstring injury.
The Belgium forward came on as a late substitute against Plzeň, exchanged passes with Joaquín Correa and fired in a left-foot shot.
“I’ve never seen so much love from a team for a single player,” Inter goalkeeper André Onana said. “And he scored, we are all happy for him.”
Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa has now saved penalty kicks in three straight Champions League games.
It was four straight spot-kick saves, really, because Costa had to stop two efforts taken by Club Brugge in Porto’s 4-0 win.
The keeper, who wears the No. 99 shirt, first dived to his right to save Hans Vanaken’s attempt, which was ordered to be retaken because of encroachment in the penalty box. Noah Lang stepped up for the retake and Costa also saved that one diving to his left.
Costa, who should go to the World Cup as Portugal’s No. 1, also saved penalties in home and away wins over Bayer Leverkusen, from Patrik Schick and Kerem Demirbay.