Manchester United’s proud 23 match Champions League unbeaten run came to an end on Wednesday as they lost 1-0 to Turkish side Besiktas.
United had already qualified for the knockout stages but they still need a point from their visit to Wolfsburg — who lost 2-1 to CSKA Moscow — in a fortnight to wrap up top spot.
Germany’s ailing four-time champions Bayern Munich kept their hopes alive and handed a much needed lifeline to coach Louis van Gaal with a 1-0 win at home to bottom-placed Maccabi Haifa.
Bordeaux did them a favour by beating Juventus 2-0 to ensure they finish top of their group while Chelsea also ensured they finished top with an efficient 1-0 win away at Porto.
Nine-time champions Real Madrid took a huge step towards securing their place in the last 16 with a 1-0 victory over FC Zurich.
AC Milan failed to keep pace with Real in the same group as they were held 1-1 by Marseille in what has been a bad week in general for Italian clubs in the competition.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a largely young side and was proud of the way they played even if it meant the undefeated home run came to an end.
”I think we were a bit anxious but its not a bad thing — they’re young and you expect that,” said the Scot.
”It was a stellar performance in terms of the flow of the game and we’ve shown some really good things,” added Ferguson, who said he might yet field a similar side against Wolfsburg.
Despite Real Madrid’s victory coach Manuel Pellegrini was far from satisfied.
”Of course we are anxious because the team is not playing as was expected,” said Pellegrini.
”The results are good but is not the type of football that please me nor the football that the team are looking to play.”
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, who was a member of the Marseille side that beat Milan in the 1993 Champions League final, was not happy as his side could easily have won the match.
”It is not a very good result, because we needed to win,” said Deschamps, who guided Monaco to the 2004 Champions League final.
”Seeing what my team did here, there was every chance we should have won.
”However, the dream is still possible. We have a small chance.”
Bayern Munich took a long time to take the lead over Haifa side but Ivica Olic finally calmed the restive supporters when he scored in the second-half to keep their hopes alive.
Van Gaal, who won the trophy with Ajax in 1995, breathed a sigh of relief.
”Of course, we are all very relieved to get the win,” said van Gaal.
”The team played well and we are pleased to have got our destiny back into our own hands.”
Despite being beaten by Bordeaux Juventus’ coach Ciro Ferrara remained optimistic that they would progres.
”We weren’t good tonight — but our destiny is still in our own hands,” insisted Ferrara.
”The defeat does not compromise our chances of qualification, even if we wanted to sort that out tonight. I think Juve are strong enough to get through this round and beat Bayern at home. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.
Wolfsburg could still progress were they and CSKA to finish on the same points based on head to heads as they beat the Russian side 3-1 in their first meeting.
Wolfsburg manager Armin Veh said he was upset both with the defeat and the missed chance to qualify for the last 16.
”We were in complete control of play in the first half,” he said. ”But after the break we played too loosely in defence. Necid scored from seven metres with an unopposed header. We should never allow him to do that.
”Krasic scored a fantastic goal but still everything is in our hands. We just need to beat Manchester United.”
Chelsea laboured for the majority of their match and against the run of play Nicolas Anelka headed home with under 20 minutes remaining.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti, saluted his men.
”To finish top of our group was our objective, it was the most important thing. This means we could have a good draw. It is not easy to come here and win. The Champions League is our aim.” — AFP