Atletico, Arsenal in KO phase
Striker Mario Mandzukic scored a hat-trick as Spanish champions Atletico Madrid thrashed Olympiakos 4-0 to reach the Champions League knockout phase yesterday, while Arsenal also went through with a convincing 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund, thanks to another superb goal from Alexis Sanchez. Arsenal have 10 points and are two behind Dortmund in Group D.
Bayer Leverkusen, likewise, advanced despite a 1-0 home defeat to Monaco.
Elsewhere, Real Madrid notched a 15th straight win as Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed his 71st Champions League goal in a 1-0 win at FC Basel, whilst Liverpool's defensive woes surfaced again in a 2-2 away draw at Bulgarian side Ludogorets.
Five-time European champions Liverpool, which have four points, are two behind Basel in Group B and host the Swiss side next.
Meanwhile, Italian champions Juventus steered themselves to within touching distance of qualifying with an assured 2-0 win at Swedish side Malmo. Midfielder Claudio Marchisio found Fernando Llorente with an astute pass and the Spanish striker finished coolly for his third goal in three games. Juve sealed the win when star midfielder Paul Pogba released Carlos Tevez for the second.
Atletico, last season's runner-up to Real, have 12 points in Group A and Juve have nine. They meet in Turin in two weeks. Olympiakos have six points.
"We withstood Malmo's pressure in the first half but we improved after the break," Marchisio said.
The pressure will alleviate on Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger as the Gunners reached the knockout stages for the 15th straight season.
"It's not easy to be consistent so I am very proud of that," Wenger said. "We want more."
Arsenal went ahead in the second minute through inexperienced striker Yaya Sanogo's first competitive goal for the North London club. Sanchez then curled a delightful shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards out for his ninth goal in eight games.
"We were overrun by Arsenal in the first 10 minutes," Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said. "It was a deserved defeat."