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Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009

Barca back on track

Defending champion beats Inter; Liverpool drops out

LONDON (AP) Barcelona revived its chances of holding onto the Champions League title with a 2-0 victory over Inter Milan on Tuesday while Fiorentina and Arsenal advanced to the last 16 and five-time winner Liverpool was eliminated.

News photo
Old and Nou: Inter Milan veteran Javier Zanetti controls the ball in front of Barcelona's Seydou Keita at the Nou Camp on Tuesday. AP PHOTO

In danger of going out of the competition if the results had gone badly, Barcelona raised its game to comfortably beat the Italian champion with goals by Gerard Pique and Pedro Rodriguez at the Nou Camp and climb to the top of the Group F standings.

"A victory like this helps us . . . to finish first," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "We played a good game, which is fantastic for us."

The victory lifted Barcelona from third to first and all but ensured qualification while Inter is now in danger of going out. Jose Mourinho's team is level on six points with newly crowned Russian champion Rubin Kazan, which was held 0-0 at home by Dynamo Kiev.

"Only Barca played and they played well," said Inter coach Jose Mourinho. "Inter just didn't have the level to match."

To make it even more exciting going to the final round of games on Dec. 9, last place Kiev could still qualify. It has five points and, if it beats Barcelona at home and Inter and Rubin draw in Milan, then Barca and Kiev will go through.

Fiorentina made it to the second round with a 1-0 victory over Lyon, which had already qualified from Group E, and that result put Liverpool out despite a 1-0 victory at Hungary's Debrecen.

Juan Vargas' 29th-minute penalty was enough for Fiorentina's fourth victory in five group games and sent the Italian side through with 12 points. Lyon dropped to second and, although David Ngog's goal in Budapest gave Liverpool victory and seven points, it can't catch either of the teams above and will drop into the Europa League as consolation for finishing third.

"You get what you deserve in this competition," said Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. "It's gone now. It's in the past and you've got to move on.

"The main prize has gone. To be playing for the Europa League is disappointing but we've got to accept that and move on and try and win it."

Arsenal qualified for the last 16 with a 2-0 home victory over Standard Liege with goals by Sami Nasri and Denilson and guaranteed finishing as group winner. Second place Olympiakos was held 0-0 by AZ Alkmaar and holds a three-point lead over Standard Liege going into the final round of games.

"In this group, we were favorites," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team reached the 2006 final and has repeatedly made it to the last eight. "We did the job. If you put the 10 years together, we have been consistent."

Romanian champion Unirea beat already-qualified Sevilla 1-0 at home to move closer to a place in the last 16 on its debut in the competition.

Sevilla defender Ivica Dragutinovic headed the ball into his own net in the final minute of the first half and Unirea now has eight points, two fewer than the Spanish team.

Despite languishing In the Bundesliga relegation zone, Stuttgart shrugged off its dismal domestic form by winning 2-0 away to Rangers to stay in contention for the knockout round but still two points behind Unirea, which it hosts next.

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