Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 21 News List

Chelsea through despite narrow defeat

BARCA BUOYANT The Blues' Champions League Group A rivals Barcelona won in Bulgaria to keep alive their hopes of defending the title they won last season

AFP , PARIS

Bayern's Martin Demichelis, right, and Spartak's Maxym Kalynychenko challenge for the ball during the UEFA Champions League match between Spartak Moscow and Bayern Munich in Moscow on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

Champions LeagueEnglish Premiership champions Chelsea qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League on Wednesday despite losing 1-0 to Werder Bremen.

Barcelona beat Levski Sofia 2-0 but the reigning champions must beat Werder in the final Group A match if they are not to suffer a humiliating exit.

Their predecessors as titleholders Liverpool also won, beating PSV Eindhoven 2-0 and ensuring they and not the Dutch side will finish top of Group C.

However, manager Rafa Benitez will be counting the cost of victory as Xabi Alonso, Jermaine Pennant and Mark Gonzalez all picked up injuries.

It was a night of mixed fortunes for Serie A sides as Inter Milan continued their revival in the tournament by winning their third match on the trot -- 1-0 at home to Sporting Lisbon -- to wrap up their place in the next stage.

They could even top Group B should they beat present leaders Bayern Munich in the final match.. The Germans drew 2-2 with Spartak Moscow in Russia.

AS Roma, though, will have to wait and see if they join Inter after losing 1-0 to Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk which leaves them just two points to the good of their opponents in Group D.

Roma need a point from their final match which will be no easy task at home to Spanish side Valencia, who assured themselves of top spot with a 2-0 win over Olympiakos, while Donetsk will entertain hopes of overhauling Roma as they face the Greeks.

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho insisted that there had been no lack of intensity from his side even if it would suit them if bitter rivals Barcelona were not in the knockout rounds.

"I like to lose to my kids but not to my opponents, it was not a super game by Chelsea," said a typically blunt Mourinho. "I think we showed that we treated it seriously."

"We tried everything. We missed Lampard and Didier [Drogba who went off with an ankle injury but should be fit for the Premiership match on Sunday with Manchester United] in the last period," he said.

His Werder Bremen counterpart Thomas Schaaf was satisfied that his pre-competition predictions were being borne out on the pitch.

"We set our sights high in this group and we are on course," said Schaaf. "Now we just need the icing on the cake. It was a classy performance tonight and we did not give much away against a top, top team."

If Mourinho was hoping for a charge of poor sportsmanship from Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard he didn't get it with the Dutch great using carefully chosen words.

However Barca's anxiety and the importance of their final match was better reflected by Mexican international defender Rafael Marquez.

"It is a really important factor that we are playing at home," said Marquez. "It will be tough but I think this side are mature enough to win like we showed tonight."

Benitez was pleased with ensuring Liverpool topped the group.

However, their performance suggested that a repeat of their success last year is unlikely.

The injuries exasperated a manager already missing influential midfielder Mohammed Sissoko and the Spaniard could not resist having a dig at Steven Gerrard, despite the England midfielder scoring and afterwards declaring how happy he was to have played in his favored central role.

"It was important to see Steven score another goal," said Benitez. "He played well, but I think he can play much better."

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