It took nine years for seven-time European champion AC Milan to finally win its way back into the Champions League knockout rounds with a 4-0 victory over Salzburg on Wednesday.
Paris Saint-Germain’s quest for a first European title got potentially tougher because it is now unseeded in the round of 16 draw Monday despite winning 2-1 at Juventus.
A stoppage-time goal for Benfica in a 6-1 win at Maccabi Haifa knocked the French champion off the top spot in Group H on an obscure seventh-tier tiebreaker rule overall goals scored away from home.
PSG and its superstar strike force of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar can now land in a blockbuster pairing with a group winner like defending champion Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Manchester City.
It’s a problem for them, too. We’re not worried, said PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who acknowledged being unaware of the situation until after the game.
Milan will likely care less about being unseeded as a group runner-up. A smooth win over Salzburg ensured finishing above the Austrians and advancing from Group E with Chelsea, which beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-1.
Veteran forward Olivier Giroud scored a goal in each half to lift Milan into the round of 16 for the first time since the 2013-14 season. The nine-year gap included some Europa League campaigns, failures to qualify at all, and a one-season ban for breaking UEFA financial rules.
Leipzig also advanced to the knockout stage by beating Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 and ending the Ukrainian club’s improbable run in its adopted home stadium in Poland during the Russian invasion.
Leipzig finished second in Group F behind Real Madrid which routed last-place Celtic 5-1 despite starting in September with two losses against Shakhtar and the Spanish defending champion.
Shakhtar’s European campaign will continue in February with a place in the Europa League playoffs given to third-place teams in Champions League groups.
Juventus also goes to the Europa League despite earning just three points in total, the same as Maccabi Haifa, because it held the tiebreaker over the Israeli club.
Manchester City trailed at halftime before rallying to beat Sevilla 3-1 and Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 at Copenhagen in Group G where all the final standings were resolved last week.