Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Olympique Lyon completed the final list of 16 teams to advance from the final round of UEFA Champions League group stage matches, which featured live on DSTV and GOtv this midweek.
Most of the drama unfolded on Tuesday night, with the Premier League pair of Liverpool and Spurs both doing just enough to move into the knockout rounds. The Reds edged Napoli 1-0 at Anfield thanks to a goal from Egyptian star Mohamed Salah and wonderful late save from goalkeeper Alisson and it proved enough to be ranked ahead of the Italians on goals scored. Paris Saint-Germain topped the group after winning 4-1 away to Red Star in Belgrade, Serbia.
“It's unbelievable,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp enthused after the match. “I'm not sure a manager was ever prouder of a team than I am at the moment. Mo scored an unbelievable goal and Ali made a save - I have no idea how you can make a save like this.
“Together with the crowd, together with the stadium it was just outstanding. We played an outstanding game. Watch all the Napoli games and find a team who caused them the problems we caused them tonight.”
Tottenham also caused heartbreak for an Italian side, though Internazionale have only themselves to blame for not defeating bottom-of-the-log PSV Eindhoven at home. The Nerazzurri’s 1-1 draw was matched by Spurs’ 1-1 away to Barcelona, allowing the English club to be ranked ahead of their Serie A counterparts on away goals across their two head-to-head meetings. Mauricio Pochettino’s side join Barcelona in advancing to the last 16.
“Thank us later,” PSV cheekily posted on their official Twitter page, and Tottenham were certainly grateful to the Eredivisie champions for their performance at the San Siro against Inter.
"We had the help from PSV," goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said after the game. "We played a very good performance and [were] unlucky not to win."
He added: "I only knew the Inter score when Fernando Llorente came on. I asked him at the corner and he told me it was 1-1. I only understood the news that we had gone through when I heard the Spurs fans, they made so much noise!"
The final knockout stage berth was claimed by Olympique Lyon on Wednesday night. The French side needed to avoid defeat away to Shakhtar Donetsk (in a match played in Kiev, due to martial law being imposed in other parts of the Ukraine) and they did just that, claiming a 1-1 draw.
Highly-rated midfielder Nabil Fekir scored Lyon’s all-important goal, firing home a left-footed shot in the 65th minute to cancel out the opener from Shakhtar’s Junior Moraes midway through the first half.
"There's a lot of emotion, joy, pride and relief as it was difficult this evening,” said Lyon boss Bruno Genesio. “We deserved the result and qualification. I'm very proud of the players because we came here to play and didn't come away from home to play for a draw. I'm really pleased that Nabil scored the goal as people have been questioning him of late."
Wednesday also saw some surprise (though effectively meaningless) defeats for competition heavyweights Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United, who were defeated by CSKA Moscow (3-0), Young Boys (2-1) and Valencia (2-1) respectively.
The final list of 16 teams advancing through the knockout rounds, which will be featured live on DSTV/GOtv in 2019: (seeded as group winners) Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Porto, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Juventus, (unseeded as group runners-up) Atletico Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Schalke, Ajax, Olympique Lyon, Roma and Manchester United.
UEFA Champions League results, 11-12 December
Tuesday 11 December
Galatasaray 2-3 Porto
Schalke 1-0 Lokomotiv Moscow
Club Brugge 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Monaco 0-2 Borussia Dortmund
Barcelona 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Internazionale 1-1 PSV
Liverpool 1-0 Napoli
Red Star 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain
Wednesday 12 December
Real Madrid 0-3 CSKA Moscow
Viktoria Plzen 2-1 Roma
Ajax 3-3 Bayern Munich
Benfica 1-0 AEK Athens
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Olympique Lyon
Manchester City 2-1 Hoffenheim
Young Boys 2-1 Juventus
Valencia 2-1 Manchester United