Sport Football Liverpool, Chelsea advance to last 16 of Champions League

Liverpool, Chelsea advance to last 16 of Champions League

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scores his team's second goal. Photo: Getty
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Relentless in their pursuit of an elusive Premier League title, Liverpool are also in the hunt for yet another Champions League trophy.

The English team stayed on course in their defence of the biggest prize in European soccer by beating Salzburg 2-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the last 16 as Group E winners.

Napoli joined the Reds in advancing from the group by thrashing Genk 4-0 thanks to a couple of gifts from the youngest goalkeeper to ever play in the Champions League.

In London, Chelsea beat Lille 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to ensure qualification.

Tammy Abraham (19th) and Cesar Azpilicueta (35th) netted for the hosts but former striker Loic Remy grabbed a goal for Lille in the 78th minute to ensure a tense finish.

The big shock came at Amsterdam Arena where visiting Valencia eliminated last season’s semi-finalists Ajax 1-0.

Rodrigo scored the vital goal in the 24th minute for the Spaniards to finish on top of Group H.

Borussia Dortmund progressed second in Group F with a nervy 2-1 win over Slavia Prague, while already-qualified Barcelona beat Inter Milan 2-1 – the Italians relegated to the Europa League.

Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in Champions League history at 17 years and 40 days when he scored Barcelona’s winner at the San Siro.

Red Bull Leipzig’s 2-2 draw with Lyon helped the already-qualified German side win Group G and allowed their French opponents to progress.

Benfica dropped into the Europa League despite beating Zenit 3-0.

Both Liverpool and Napoli knew victories in their final group matches would see them progress. While it was a procession for Napoli, Liverpool found it much tougher.

Juergen Klopp’s team survived some early scares against Salzburg before scoring two goals in as many minutes from the 57th, through Naby Keita – against the club for whom he played from 2014-16 – and Mohamed Salah.

Salah’s goal was exquisite, the Egypt forward breaking the offside trap to round the goalkeeper and score from an acute angle on the right with his weaker right foot.

Liverpool, who leads the Premier League by eight points, also left it to the final group game last season before advancing in the Champions League.

It was Salah who scored the crucial goal then in a 1-0 win over Napoli to eliminate the Italian team.

Klopp told BT Sport it was a tough game.

“They started so direct. They did so many smart things. We were ready to defend it. It was a very tense game,” he said.

“In the second half they couldn’t cope with the intensity. We scored two wonderful goals. We could have scored six or seven which is crazy. We won the group, we won the game, all good.”

Napoli’s win proved to be unnecessary in the end with Salzburg’s loss which relegated the impressive young Austrian team to the Europa League.

It was a tough Champions League debut for Maarten Vandevoordt, who became the youngest goalkeeper ever in the competition – at 17 years, nine months and 10 days – only to give away the first goal in the third minute after being tackled inside his own six-yard box as he tried to beat a Napoli player.

Arkadiusz Milik converted into an empty net for the first of his three goals before half-time. The third came from a penalty, given away by Vandevoordt. Dries Mertens added another penalty in the 74th minute.

-AAP