Arsenal strike late to land in last 16

English team post 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade

on a high: Arsenal’s Robin van Persie celebrates after scoring against Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League in London on Wednesday. AFP

Arsenal flirted with trouble at 1-1 at home to Partizan Belgrade but a group phase that featured few surprises ended predictably as Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri struck to secure a 3-1 win that saw them squeeze through in second spot in Group H.

Shakhtar kept Braga at bay before striking twice in the second half themselves for a 2-0 home win that clinched first place ahead of Arsenal, while Roma held on for a drab 1-1 draw at CFR Cluj to qualify behind Bayern Munich in Group F.

The draw for the last 16, to be held on December 17, will feature the might of European club soccer, with Arsenal’s second-place finish meaning they could face fellow heavyweights Barcelona or Real Madrid who are among the group winners.

Absent from the draw will be Zilina and Spartak Moscow, whose Group F game in Slovakia was held up for 20 minutes when fans launched a firecracker on to the pitch from an end populated by Spartak fans.

Bayern, Chelsea, Olympique Marseille, Real Madrid and AC Milan had already secured their places heading into Wednesday's final matches.

Chelsea, going through a sticky patch in the Premier League, were beaten 1-0 at Olympique Marseille through a Brandao goal nine minutes from time but while the result may provide further concerns for coach Carlo Ancelotti it had no bearing on Group F.

The English side were already assured of qualifying top ahead of their French opponents. Arsenal's victory over Partizan, who finished bottom of the group without a point, was surprisingly nervy considering they got a decent start with a Robin van Persie penalty. Cleo's equaliser rocked them but two neat finishes from Walcott and Nasri meant they survived the sending-off of Bacary Sagna five minutes from time with equanimity.

England's Premier League will have the strongest presence going forward with four of the 16 teams -- three of them from London and sharing the same dream of a "home" final at Wembley next May.

Spain and Italy have three qualifiers each, Germany and France two and Ukraine and Denmark one apiece.

The most emphatic winners on the final night of Champions League action before 2011 were Real Madrid, who helped themselves to a 4-0 win over Auxerre in Group G with a hat-trick from Karim Benzema and one from Cristiano Ronaldo.

The result snuffed out Auxerre hopes of a Europa League place. Ajax Amsterdam clinched that with a 2-0 win away to a second-string AC Milan in Frank de Boer's first game in temporary charge.

Bayern also enjoyed themselves in a 3-0 win over Basel, Franck Ribery getting two of the goals as the Bavarians underlined their superiority in Group E. The competition returns with the last 16 knockout stage from February, by which time UEFA will hope to have seen the last of the problems that held up Spartak Moscow's 2-1 win at Zilina.

The trouble, which resulted in no apparent injuries, came less than a week after Russia was elected 2018 World Cup hosts.

Comments (+)