Fri, Nov 30, 2007 - Page 24 News List

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Chelsea, Milan book their spots

COLD COMFORT Chelsea strolled to victory in freezing conditions in Trondheim, Norway, whereas AC Milan squeezed through with a 1-1 draw away against Benfica

AFP , PARIS

Chelsea's Didier Drogba reacts to the cold after scoring a goal against Rosenborg in Trondheim, Norway, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Chelsea and AC Milan became the latest teams to seal their places in the Champions League knockout stage after the penultimate batch of group matches on Wednesday.

This duo joined Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Roma and Sevilla, who have already ensured their presence in the next round, leaving eight tickets still to be claimed.

Among those sides with work to do in the final cluster of group games next month are nine-time European champions Real Madrid, who came unstuck 3-2 at Werder Bremen.

Real's loss blew Group C wide open with any one of the four teams still in with a chance of making it to the last 16.

In contrast to the Spanish giants, Chelsea can now approach their final group phase fixture at home to Valencia in the safe position as Group B leaders irrespective of the result on Dec. 11 after a 4-0 stroll at Rosenborg.

Chelsea's last meeting with the Norwegians -- that drab 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge which triggered Jose Mourinho's departure -- was a distant memory as Chelsea tore apart Rosenborg's sometime dreadful defending.

With a goal apiece from Alex and Joe Cole and a brace from Didier Drogba Avram Grant's side warmed up their traveling supporters who braved the freezing temperatures in Trondheim -- including the hardy fan who watched the entire game shirtless.

Blue's skipper John Terry was evidently pleased and happy to get through to the next round.

"We started really well, the pitch was a bit wet and difficult but we adapted well. We knew it was going to be difficult but the early goal helped and all the front boys performed really well today," Terry said.

Liverpool put themselves back in business with a 4-1 stroll over Group A leaders FC Porto at Anfield with Fernando Torres getting a double and Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch striking late.

That left Rafael Benitez' 2005 champions needing a win against Marseille, beaten 2-1 in Istanbul by Besiktas, to ensure their place in the last 16.

Benitez's very public disagreements with Tom Hicks and George Gillett over transfer policy could have proved a fatal distraction at the pivotal moment of Liverpool's European campaign.

But his players bailed the Spaniard out and he was more contrite after the match, insisting there was no personal issue with his employers.

In Glasgow, Celtic were on course for a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk after the opener from the Ukrainian's Brandao had been canceled out by Jiri Jarosik until Massimo Dontai produced a dramatic injury time winner.

The win left Celtic in second in Group D on nine points ahead of next month's final game away to AC Milan, who squeezed through after a 1-1 draw at Benfica.

That left them needing only a point against Celtic to top the standings.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted that his side were determined to secure top spot in the group and would be concentrating on that.

"We played well in the first half but in the second half we found it difficult. Maybe we made some mistakes in defense and we were under a lot of pressure but in the end we could have won," he said.

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