Tuesday 12 December 2017

Work to do for Barca

Barcelona missed the chance to qualify for the last 16 when they were held to a 1-1 draw by a well-organised and aggressive FC Copenhagen in Champions League Group D.

Barca's prolific Argentina forward Lionel Messi put the La Liga giants ahead in the 31st minute in the Danish capital, netting his fifth of the competition with a rare right-foot shot that Johan Wiland could only palm on to a post and in.

The hosts were level a minute later when Wiland's opposite number Victor Valdes deflected a Jesper Gronkjaer cross into the path of Claudemir and the midfielder volleyed into the net with the ball taking a slight deviation off defender Eric Abidal.

Barca came agonisingly close to securing the win that would have sent them through when substitute Pedro hit the post with a curled effort from the corner of the penalty area in stoppage-time.

Rangers suffered their first defeat in the Champions League this season as Roberto Soldado grabbed a double to hand Valencia a crucial victory at the Mestalla.

He netted on both sides of the interval, before Tino Costa sealed the win late on, as the Spaniards leapfrogged Rangers into second place in Group C, with Manchester United strengthening their grasp on top spot with a win over Bursaspor.

Steven Naismith hit the woodwork twice on a frustrating night for Walter Smith's men as they failed to produce the fightback to maintain their unbeaten run in the competition.

Elsewhere, Group B table-toppers Lyon were blown away by Benfica's verve and Fabio Coentrao's brace before a spirited fightback from 4-0 down almost levelled matters.

Alan Kardec, Coentrao twice and Javi Garcia had the hosts in cruise control before Yoann Gourcuff, Bafetimbi Gomis 85 and Dejan Lovren made the final seconds nervous one for the Portuguese side.

Second-placed Schalke 04 could not take full advantage of the surprise result as they drew 0-0 at Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Irish Independent

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