PSG advances in tense finish to Champions League group; Porto also into round of 16

Paris St Germain’s Warren Zaire-Emery celebrates scoring the equaliser against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League match on Decemeber 13, 2023
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Paris Saint-Germain and Kylian Mbappé were left holding a ticket to the Champions League knockout round after a tense finish to the tightest group saw Newcastle let its chance slip.

Porto also earned its place in the round of 16 draw on Monday with a 5-3 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk, which needed to win to advance.

PSG’s 1-1 draw at Group F winner Borussia Dortmund — earned by 17-year-old Warren Zaïre-Emery’s 56th-minute leveler — was enough to secure second place because Newcastle lost 2-1 at home to AC Milan.

“We are still alive,” said PSG coach Luis Enrique, whose unseeded team can now be drawn to face Manchester City, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. “No team will hope to play us in the next round.”

Newcastle was in the box seat kicking off the second half with a one-goal lead but ended in last place without even the consolation prize of entering the second-tier Europa League as a third-place finisher.

That reward flipped to Milan when it took the lead in the 84th as substitute Samuel Chukwueze raced clear to score one minute after coming on from the bench. Milan had leveled in the 59th on United States playmaker Christian Pulisic’s goal.

Newcastle joined Manchester United in losing at home — United on Tuesday — to finish bottom of a group and give England its weakest round of 16 challenge for 11 years: just defending champion Man City and Arsenal are in the draw Monday.

“We are absolutely devastated not to go through,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said.

The 16-team lineup was completed by Porto, which finished runner-up in Group H to Barcelona though the Spanish champion lost 3-2 at Royal Antwerp.

Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 win over Lazio ensured it would finish top of Group E and be seeded in Monday’s draw. Lazio had already advanced before the final round of games. Last-place Celtic got a stoppage-time goal to beat Feyenoord 2-1.

Man City sent out a team of few regular starters — including former ball boy Micah Hamilton who scored on his debut — to win 3-2 at Red Star Belgrade and ensure the defending champion completed a six-win program atop Group G.

In the other group game that also did not affect the final standings, Leipzig beat Young Boys 2-1.

Round of 16 draw

The draw at UEFA headquarters on Monday includes eight former champions who have combined to win 33 of the 67 titles since the European Cup started in 1955.

Group winners (seeded): Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, Barcelona.

Runners-up (unseeded): Copenhagen, PSV Eindhoven, Napoli, Inter Milan, Lazio, Paris Saint-Germain, Leipzig, Porto.

In the round of 16, teams cannot play an opponent from their own country or a team they already faced in the group stage. Draws later in the season for the quarterfinals and semifinals are open with no seeding or country protection.

Europa League playoffs

Third-place teams in Champions League groups keep playing in February in the knockout playoffs for the second-tier Europa League, which also are drawn Monday.

Playoffs qualifiers: Galatasaray, Lens, Braga, Benfica, Feyenoord, AC Milan, Young Boys, Shakhtar Donetsk.

Those teams will be unseeded, playing the home leg first, against runner-up teams in the Europa League groups. Those runners-up include Sporting Lisbon, and could add Roma and Brighton after Thursday’s games.

Winners of the Europa League playoffs advance to the round of 16 to face group winners like Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen, current leaders of the Premier League and Bundesliga, respectively.

Last-ever group stage

The Champions League said farewell Wednesday to the traditional round-robin groups of four teams playing each other home and away.

Last year, UEFA approved a new and expanded 36-team format under pressure from clubs who want more guaranteed games, a varied program with more higher-quality opponents and more money.

Each team in the 2024-25 Champions League will play eight games instead of six, against eight different opponents, in a single standings to rank them.

The top eight teams in January 2025 will advance to a 16-team knockout phase in a seeded draw like a tennis tournament bracket. Teams placed 9 through 24 in the standings will be paired in two-leg playoffs to fill the round of 16 bracket.

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