Champions League: Zenit storm through to knockout stage; vital win for Roma
Barca make light of Messi's absence again while Porto also stay on track
Chelsea and Roma scored late goals to earn crucial victories in the Champions League on Wednesday, improving their chances of advancing to the knockout stage.
Chelsea defeated Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in England thanks to an 83rd-minute free kick by Willian, while Miralem Pjanic’s 80th-minute penalty kick gave Roma a 3-2 home win over Bayer Leverkusen.
Zenit St Petersburg secured their place in the round of 16 with a win at Lyon, while Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Porto and Olympiakos also won on Wednesday, staying on track to advance.
Here’s a closer look at Wednesday’s games in the Champions League:
Neymar and Luis Suarez continued their excellent scoring form to make up for the absence of Lionel Messi and help Barcelona move closer to the round of 16 with an easy 3-0 win over BATE Borisov.
With Messi watching from the Camp Nou stands, Neymar converted a penalty on the half-hour mark, then set up Suarez’s strike in the 60th and scored his second goal in the 83rd after an assist by the Uruguayan striker.
Since Messi tore a left knee ligament on September 26, Neymar and Suarez have combined for 17 of Barcelona’s 20 goals.
Barcelona lead the group with 10 points, five more than Roma, who moved into second place thanks to the late 3-2 win over Leverkusen, which stayed on four points, one more than BATE.
“The aim was to win and the victory gives us a great chance to seal our qualification,” Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said.
Leverkusen had rallied from two goals down to draw level with Roma before captain Omer Toprak was shown a red card for pushing Mohamed Salah inside the area, prompting the penalty that Pjanic converted for the victory.
“We absolutely had to win and we did,” Pjanic said.
Thomas Mueller scored two goals as Bayern Munich dominated Arsenal in a 5-1 win in Bavaria, while Felipe Pardo scored both goals for Olympiakos as they rallied to beat 10-man Dinamo Zagreb 2-1.
Bayern and Olympiakos reached nine points, while Arsenal and Dinamo stayed with three each with two games remaining.
Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring for Bayern in the 10th minute, Mueller doubled the lead in the 29th and David Alaba made it 3-0 in the 44th. Arjen Robben scored with his first touch of the ball in the 55th, less than a minute after coming off the bench, and Mueller added his second in the 89th.
Olivier Giroud pulled one back for Arsenal in the 69th.
“It was a key match for us that we wanted to win,” Mueller said.
In Piraeus, substitute Pardo was the hero with two second-half goals to help Olympiakos beat Dinamo Zagreb, who lost Josip Pivaric with a second yellow card with 11 minutes remaining.
Willian produced a late winner as Chelsea fans put on a show of support for embattled manager Jose Mourinho, scoring from a free kick to earn a 2-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev.
A four-game winless run in all competitions had ratcheted the pressure on Mourinho, whose future at Stamford Bridge has appeared to be jeopardized by off-field issues accompanying the poor results.
“From the mental point of view it was important,” Mourinho said. “A reaction to a negative moment.”
Dynamo defender Aleksandar Dragovic sent a diving header into his own goal while trying to clear Diego Costa’s cross in the 39th, then atoned for his blunder by slamming the ball home in the 78th after goalkeeper Asmir Begovic flapped at a corner. Willian scored his fifth goal of the season direct from a free kick to ensure Chelsea rose to second in the group with seven points, two more than Dynamo. Porto, which moved closer to a place in the knockout stage after easing to a 3-1 victory at Maccabi Tel-Aviv, has 10 points.
Zenit St Petersburg maintained their perfect record in the Champions League and reached the knockout phase with a 2-0 win at Lyon.
Artem Dzyuba scored a brace from a couple of assists by Hulk as the Russian side produced a fourth win in as many matches for their best start ever in the competition.
Zenit secured its place in the last 16 with two games to spare, leading second-place Valencia by six points after the Spanish side lost 1-0 to Gent in the group’s other match. Gent is third with four points, while Lyon is last with one.
Lyon still have a chance to advance but it will need to win their last two matches and hope other results go their way.
Defender Sven Kums converted a 49th-minute penalty kick to give Gent the three points against Valencia at home. It was the first Champions League win for the Belgian side.