In Depth

Champions League reactions: Chelsea and Liverpool still have work to do

Qualification will go down to the wire for the two English sides

Uefa Champions League group H Valencia 2 Chelsea 2

Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League will go down to the wire after the Blues drew 2-2 at Valencia. 

The result leaves them third in group H, level on eight points with the Spanish club but with an inferior goal difference. Ajax are top with ten points and will qualify as group winners if they avoid a home defeat against Valencia in their final pool match.

“I’m happy to a degree,” said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. “It was a really tough match but the draw keeps things in our hands for the last game against Lille. There were positives and negatives from the game but that’s a big positive.” 

Not serious

One of the negatives was the sight of striker Tammy Abraham being stretched off shortly before half time after the 22-year-old fell awkwardly going for a header. 

Lampard said later that the England forward was walking on the bruised hip and he hoped “it’s nothing too serious”.

Abraham left the field with the score at 1-1 after team-mate Mateo Kovacic had equalised Carlos Soler’s effort for the hosts. 

Christian Pulisic then gave Chelsea the lead five minutes into the second half, but his goal required a lengthy intervention from the video assistant referee (VAR). For three minutes officials scrutinised replays of the goal before deciding that Pulisic had been played onside by the boot of Ezequiel Garay.

Hero and villain

VAR was required again on 63 minutes to adjudge that Jorginho had indeed fouled Jose Gaya, but Daniel Parejo’s penalty was well saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga. 

However, the Chelsea keeper’s judgement wasn’t so sure on 82 minutes as he failed to deal with what appeared to be a cross by Daniel Wass. The ball hit the far post and ended up in the visitors’ net and now Chelsea must beat Lille (who lost 2-0 at home to Ajax) in their final match on 10 December to ensure they progress to the knockout stage.

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Champions League group E Liverpool 1 Napoli

Defending champions Liverpool had to come from behind against Napoli at Anfield, but the point they secured in the 1-1 draw was still not enough to confirm their passage to the last 16.

The Reds require at least a point in their final group game at Red Bull Salzburg to progress to the knockout stage. 

The frustration felt by Liverpool was embodied in manager Jurgen Klopp, who was shown a yellow card for his antics on the touchline. 

Asked why he had been booked by referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande , the Reds boss said: “He stopped the game twice and made a big fuss. There was an opportunity for both teams to have a quick restart but twice he [intervened] and had things to say. So I said: ‘Why did you do that? Please don’t do that’ and then I got it [the yellow card].”

No holiday

In truth, Klopp’s irritation was due more to the fact that his side were off-colour in the first period, going a goal down to Dries Mertens after 21 minutes. 

Dejan Lovren headed the hosts level midway during the second period but they were unable to force a winner and must now pick up at least a point in Austria on 10 December. 

They’ll probably have to do so without Fabinho after the influential midfielder sustained an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him for several weeks. 

“People wished we could finish the group tonight and make kind of a holiday game in Salzburg,” reflected Klopp. 

“If we have ambitions in the Champions League, we have to show that in Salzburg. Until then we have to show our ambitions in the Premier League.”

Messi stars as Barca qualify

On his 700th appearance for Barcelona, Lionel Messi scored once and provided two assists as the Catalans beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at the Camp Nou. 

Barca have clinched top spot in group F and join Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus and RB Leipzig in the knockout stages.

The final group matches are on 10-11 December and the round of 16 draw will take place on 16 December.  

Today’s back pages

Champions League holders Liverpool on red alert

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