Liverpool cruise, Ajax fight to reach last 16 of Champions League

Liverpool cruise, Ajax fight to reach last 16 of Champions League

First-half goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane earned Liverpool a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and a place in the Champions League last 16 and Ajax struck late to win 3-1 in Dortmund to join them.

The seven-time champions Liverpool repeated their lightning start from the reverse game in Madrid with Trent Alexander-Arnold crossing for Jota in 13 minutes and then repeating the trick for Mane in the 21st.

“The game was nearly perfect, like we wanted to have it: we scored the goals at the right moments,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp.

“They were much more on the front foot than they were in their home game, in how they started, but we defended well and they were two incredible balls from Trent, I have to say.”

Felipe’s straight red card made life harder for Diego Simeone’s side and though Jota and Luis Suarez, back at his former club, each had goals disallowed in the second half, Liverpool held on with ease to stay top of Group B on a perfect 12 points.

Porto are second on five after a 1-1 draw at AC Milan, who picked up their first point, while Atletico are third on four.

Ajax joined Liverpool, and Juventus and Bayern Munich from Tuesday, in reaching the knock-out stage as Sebastien Haller notched a remarkable seventh goal in four games six minutes from time.

The hosts were energetic in trying to avenge a 4-0 thrashing from Amsterdam and took a deserved lead from Marco Reus’ first half penalty shortly after Mats Hummels’ incredibly harsh straight red card for an alleged studs-first tackle.

“I have no idea how you can give red,” Hummels told DAZN. “I waited directly on the pitch [for video review]. When he stuck with the red, I couldn’t believe it. It was an absurdly wrong decision.”

Ajax levelled through Dusan Tadic and Davy Klaassen made it safe in added time.

Dortmund have six points to sit level with Sporting Lisbon, who crushed pointless Besiktas 4-0 to set up a thriller with the Bundesliga side in Portugal next time.

RB Leipzig did earn a first point in Group A thanks to Dominik Szoboszlai’s injury-time penalty at home to Paris Saint-Germain.

Georginio Wijnaldum’s double had given PSG the lead despite Christopher Nkunku’s early opener against his former club.

Andre Silva missed a penalty at 1-0 and PSG, without the injured Lionel Messi, were out of sorts to drop to second in the table on eight points.

Manchester City, last year’s beaten finalists, are one ahead them and surely set for the last 16 as well after Phil Foden, Riyed Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus secured a 4-1 win over Club Brugge, who levelled through a John Stones own goal.

Brugge have four points and are on course for the Europa League spot in third.

And there was a landmark goal for Real Madrid as Karim Benzema struck their 1,000th and then 1,001st goal in the Champions Cup/League with his double also securing a vital 2-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

The brace from the Frenchman kept the record winners of Europe’s elite competition top of Group D on nine points, two clear of Inter Milan who cruised 3-1 at Moldovan surprise package Sheriff, who have six.

Benzema had opened the scoring in the 14th minute after Vinicius Junior pounced on a defensive error and the young Brazilian also set up the winner just after the hour having combined with compatriot Casemiro.

“It was a tough game against a good team who played well,” said Real captain Benzema, who has four goals in four Champions League games this season.”