As Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 2-0 win at Villarreal on Tuesday, Manchester United was assured of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Holder Chelsea also reached the knockout phase by thrashing Juventus.
A win would confirm a top-two finish in Group F for the three-time European champions, who sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the weekend.
Manchester United’s fate was in their own hands if they lost, so they were under tremendous pressure.
United, under interim coach Michael Carrick, took advantage of Ronaldo’s 78th-minute lob after David de Gea recorded two crucial saves.
With his first goal for the club in the closing stages, Jadon Sancho, so often seen as a peripheral figure since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, put the finishing touches on a fine individual display.
Carrick said the result was not important to him. It was important to the players and to the club.
Ronaldo’s goal for Manchester United was the 799th of his career, the 140th in the Champions League, and the sixth of this season.
As a result of Young Boys’ 3-3 draw with Atalanta in Bern, the other qualification spot remains unclaimed.
In the 88th minute, Luis Muriel struck to break the Swiss champions’ hearts. Vincent Sierro and Silvan Hefti scored late goals to give the Swiss the lead.
Villarreal visits Atalanta in Bergamo next month for a winner-takes-all match.
Chelsea thrash Juventus
With a 4-0 thrashing of Juventus at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea cruised into the last 16 and to the top of Group H.
When Thomas Tuchel’s side avoided defeat or if Malmo failed to defeat Zenit Saint Petersburg, qualification was assured.
Young defender Trevoh Chalobah scored his third goal of the season to give the Blues the lead early.
Wojciech Szczesny saved a header from Thiago Silva early in the second period, as Chelsea’s defenders were consistently threatening from set-pieces.
In the 56th minute, Chelsea’s lead was doubled by a defender.
For the fifth time already this season, England right-back Reece James volleyed into the bottom corner of the net.
In less than two minutes, Chelsea scored their third goal, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek feeding Hudson-Odoi who smashed home from close range.
Timo Werner was still able to score in extra time, making his first appearance since an injury layoff.
As Tuchel said, “We created so much and scored a lot of goals against Juventus. We deserve full credit for such an amazing performance.”
Zenit qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League after a 1-1 draw with Malmo.
Benfica held Barcelona to a scoreless draw at the Camp Nou in the second match Xavi managed as a coach, but Barcelona remain top of Group E.
For Barcelona to qualify for the knockout stage, it must win its final group game against Bayern Munich in Germany.
In their last match, Benfica hosts already-eliminated Dynamo Kiev, two points behind Barca.
In a nervy first half, Barcelona’s Gavi missed a golden opportunity when Memphis Depay was in the middle, waiting for a tap-in, blazing over from close range.
Xavi’s team, though, improved after the interval, with Frenkie de Jong’s header forcing Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos to make a diving save.
Haris Seferovic missed a chance to put Benfica into the last 16 deep into injury time when he should have scored.
Ronald Araujo told UEFA.com: “We played well, but tonight we were here to win.”
We must now go to Munich and win in front of our fans and people.
Bayern Munich clinched the top spot in Group E with a 2-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev.
Robert Lewandowski’s overhead kick lit up a snowy evening in Kiev, while Kingsley Coman also scored for the six-time champions.
Jonathan David scored the only goal in the first half to give Lille a 1-0 win over Salzburg in France.
Sevilla defeated Wolfsburg 2-0, so all four teams in the group are still in the running.