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Champions League round-up

Manchester City's ambitions are hanging by a thread after losing to Napoli, while Manchester United face a tense finale after drawing at home to Benfica.

City facing bleak European future; United still have work to do

Manchester City's UEFA Champions League ambitions are hanging by a thread after losing to Napoli, while Manchester United face a tense finale after drawing at home to Benfica. Roberto Mancini's men have slipped to third in Group A after their 2-1 defeat to the Serie A side and must now beat group winners Bayern Munich at home in their final encounter and hope Napoli slip up away to rock-bottom Villarreal. And Sir Alex Ferguson faces an unexpected and unwanted tense final encounter away to FC Basel after Benfica secured a deserved 2-2 draw in an enthralling encounter at Old Trafford, a result which was enough for the Portuguese club to progress. Two goals from Napoli star Edinson Cavani turned Manchester City's European dream into a nightmare as the Premier League leaders came unstuck in Italy. An already pulsating atmosphere was cranked up several notches when Cavani got the faintest touch to Ezequiel Lavezzi's corner in the 17th minute, with goalkeeper Joe Hart unable to keep the ball out at his near post. But the hosts gifted City an equaliser in the 33rd minute when Salvatore Aronica's attempted clearance from Edin Dzeko's cross fell straight to David Silva, whose low driven shot was palmed out by Morgan De Sanctis to the feet of Mario Balotelli, who could not miss from point-blank range. However, the hosts restored their advantage early in the second period with a great finish from Cavani, who fired home first time from Andrea Dossena's pull-back, with Hart hardly covering himself in glory. Bayern Munich booked their place in the knockout phase as Group A winners as they extended Villarreal's miserable Champions League record this term. Two goals from Franck Ribery helped the German giants secure a 3-1 victory against the Spanish strugglers, who have no points from their five outings. Mario Gomez was also on target for the hosts at the Allianz Arena, with Jonathan de Guzman's 50th minute response for the Primera Liga outfit little more than a consolation. Even a Matchday Six victory over Bayern at the Etihad Stadium may not be enough for Mancini's men as they also need Napoli to slip up on their travels against Villarreal if they are to avoid dropping into the Europa League.


Manchester United were expected to cruise through Group C, but now need to avoid defeat in their final encounter against Basel to ensure they join Benfica in the knockout phase after an enthralling 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. United made a nightmare start when teenage defender Phil Jones, who was likened to Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro by Fabio Capello, sliced into his own net in the fourth minute after Nicolas Gaitan burst into the box on the right and fired over a dangerous low cross. But the Red Devils weathered the early storm and drew level on the half-hour mark when Dimitar Berbatov rose highest in the box to head Nani's inswinging cross from the left beyond Artur. And they forged ahead in the 59th minute when Patrice Evra's cross was forced home at the second attempt by Darren Fletcher, only to relinquish their lead almost immediately as David de Gea's weak clearance allowed Pablo Aimar to bundle home from close range. FC Basel go into their final group game at home to the Red Devils just a point adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson's side after scraping past Otelul Galati 3-2. Early goals from Fabian Frei and namesake Alexander Frei put the Swiss side well in control, with Marco Streller seemingly making sure of the victory with his 37th minute effort. But goals in the last 15 minutes from Gabriel Giurgiu and Liviu Antal set up a tense finale, with the visitors holding on for a vital victory.
Real Madrid continued their majestic progress through Group D as they extended their 100 per cent record by demolishing whipping boys Dinamo Zagreb 6-2. Jose Mourinho elected to leave Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas on the bench with Real already safely through to the next phase and watched his side roar into a 4-0 lead after just 20 minutes. Karim Benzema and Jose Callejon bagged braces with Gonzalo Higuan and Mesut Ozil also on target as the Spanish giants confirmed they would romp on as group winners, with Fatos Beciraj becoming the first man to breach their defence late on and Ivan Tomecak adding a second at the death. Ajax look certain to join Real in the next phase after another 0-0 draw against Lyon with the Dutch outfit three points clear of their rivals and boasting a significantly superior goal difference. Lille's 2-0 victory over CSKA Moscow in Russia in the early kick-off in Group B ensured that Inter Milan progressed to the knockout phase before their clash with Trabzonspor. Inspired by Eden Hazard, the French side forged ahead shortly after the interval when Vasili Berezutski could only put through his own net, before Moussa Sow made sure of the victory when he converted from close range after Joe Cole struck the post. And Inter's 1-1 draw against Trabzonspor in Turkey later in the evening was enough to secure top spot with one game to spare after Halil Altintop swiftly cancelled out Ricardo Alvarez's 18th minute opener.

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