Liverpool clinched a 1-0 win at Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Chelsea ruined former coach Claudio Ranieri’s return to keep alive English hopes of seeing four clubs in the Champions League last eight.
Liverpool, five-time winners, stunned a packed Bernabeu and claimed a valuable away goal to take into the second leg of their last 16 tie when Yossi Benayoun headed home in the 81st minute.
At Stamford Bridge, Didier Drogba was on target as Chelsea, runners-up to Manchester United last season, edged Juventus 1-0.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Bayern Munich crushed Sporting CP 5-0 in Portugal, while Panathinaikos drew 1-1 at Villarreal.
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, who was signed from Real’s bitter rivals Atletico, was close to stunning the Real Madrid fans with a long-range, dipping drive which was acrobatically saved by Iker Casillas.
Xabi Alonso then came close with a cheeky lob from halfway that almost embarrassed Casillas.
Torres, who missed six weeks of the season with a hamstring injury, then picked up another knock and was replaced on the hour mark by Ryan Babel, although the Spanish striker was far from happy as he trudged off to the bench.
Real pressed and Arjen Robben unleased a fierce drive after 70 minutes that Pepe Reina saved.
But Liverpool grabbed the goal they deserved in the 81st minute.
Gabriel Heinze gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box and Fabio Aurelio sent over an in-swinging cross that Benayoun headed past Casillas.
“We worked very hard and we scored a very good goal,” said Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, who added that he took off Torres as a precaution. “He hurt his ankle in the first minute, so he wasn’t fully fit. I took him off because he could be at risk for the next few games.”
Real coach Juande Ramos said his team were still optimistic for the return leg at Anfield on March 10.
“We were unlucky to concede and now we need to win at Anfield. We are behind in the tie, but it is far from over,” Ramos said.
At Stamford Bridge, Drogba, back in the starting line-up under new coach Guus Hiddick after his stormy relationship with Luiz Felipe Scolari, scored the only goal for Chelsea against Juventus in the 12th minute.
Salomon Kalou’s pass found Drogba, who took one touch and scored in the corner past Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal. Pavel Nedved came close for the Italians in the dying moments with a long-range drive that was deflected past Petr Cech’s post.
Liverpool and Chelsea made it two good evenings for English sides after Arsenal had defeated Roma 1-0 on Tuesday, while Manchester United drew 0-0 at Inter.
“We created enough chances to score more, but it’s very important we keep a clean sheet at home,” Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said.
French international Franck Ribery scored twice as Bayern Munich beat Sporting CP of Portugal 5-0 to virtually guarantee a quarter-final place.
Ribery opened the scoring in the 42nd minute and added a second from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute after Philipp Lahm was chopped down by Fabio Rochemback.
In between, Miroslav Klose scored from a Luca Toni flick to register his sixth goal in this season’s tournament. Toni added two late strikes for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men.
“Everything just slotted together for us tonight,” Bayern team manager Uli Hoeness said.
Villarreal, semi-finalists in 2006, fell behind at home to Panathinaikos when Giorgios Karagounis found the target after 59 minutes, but the Spaniards were level eight minutes later when Giuseppe Rossi converted a penalty awarded for a foul on Robert Pires by Jakub Wawrzyniak.