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Friday, Dec. 11, 2009

Barcelona, Inter Milan advance in Champions League

LONDON (AP) Barcelona, Inter Milan, Stuttgart and Olympiakos advanced in the Champions League on Wednesday to complete the lineup for the next round.

Defending champion Barcelona needed an 86th-minute free kick by Lionel Messi to win 2-1 at Dynamo Kiev and edge Inter for first place in Group F.

Inter beat Russia's Rubin Kazan 2-0 to advance, while Stuttgart took second place in Group G with a 3-1 win over Unirea Urziceni. Olympiakos beat already qualified Arsenal 1-0 to finish second to the Gunners in Group H.

Barcelona needed only to avoid a large defeat to advance and that looked possible when Artem Milevskiy hit an early goal for Dynamo, but Xavi Hernandez equalized in the 33rd after sustained pressure and European player of the year Messi made sure Barcelona qualified in first place ahead of Inter with his curling free kick.

Samuel Eto'o and Mario Balotelli scored on either side of halftime to give Inter Milan a 2-0 win over Rubin Kazan.

Eto'o opened the scoring in the 30th after being set up by an exchange between Javier Zanetti and Balotelli, before the latter scored a long-range free kick in the 63rd.

Inter finished second in Group F with nine points, two fewer than Barcelona, leaving Rubin Kazan to drop into the Europa League as the third-place finisher.

Stuttgart secured second place to Sevilla in Group G with victory in its first game under new coach Christian Gross.

Ciprian Marica, Christian Traesch and Pavel Pogrebnyak scored inside the first 11 minutes to stun the Romanian team, which went into the match with a two-point lead over Stuttgart in Group G.

Antonio Semedo pulled one back for Unirea in the 46th.

Sevilla had already qualified before beating Rangers 1-0.

Olympiakos advanced to the knockout stage through Leonardo's second-half goal against Arsenal, which lost its unbeaten record but still topped Group H.

Standard Liege qualified for the Europa League in dramatic circumstances when goalkeeper Sinan Bolat scored an injury-time header to earn a 1-1 draw with AZ Alkmaar.

With Standard's European campaign seconds from ending, Bolat sprinted forward for a last-second free kick and headed powerfully past Sergio Romero.

"This is crazy, I still can't believe it," Bolat said. "I thought I'll take a chance and head upfield."

AZ had held the lead for over 50 minutes after Jeremain Lens scored in the 42nd.

In the other group, Alberto Gilardino scored in injury time to give Fiorentina a 2-1 win at Liverpool and first place in its group.

Sol waits for a call

LONDON (AP) Sol Campbell would welcome an approach from Manchester United to help solve the English champions' injury crisis in defense.

The 35-year-old center-back is without a club after an acrimonious exit from Notts County in September, although he has been training at former club Arsenal to stay fit.

Campbell, who played more than 70 internationals for England, would be free to join United in January after finally being released from his five-year contract with Notts County. He walked out on the club after just one match.

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