By the time the last six matches of the Champions League group stage kicked off on Thursday, there was only one spot remaining in the knockout round. AC Milan faced RB Salzburg in what turned out to essentially be a one-game playoff. The winner of the match would advance to the next phase of the tournament.
AC Milan would beat Salzburg 4-0 on the night. Olivier Giroud started off the scoring with a signature header by the Frenchman inside 15 minutes. The France international thought he had doubled his team’s lead about 10 minutes later; however the center forward was ruled offside.
Nevertheless, Giroud would go on to get his brace in the match. Rade Krunic and Junior Messias also added goals as well. Milan will join fellow Serie A club Napoli in the knockout round of the Champions League. After finishing second in Group E, Milan could next face Porto, Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Benfica.
Champions League group stage wraps up in dramatic fashion
However, one Italian team that will not compete in the top European competition is Juventus. Juve are in the midst of an extremely disappointing campaign. The usual giants of Italy have already been knocked out of advancing through to the next phase, but they did have a chance to qualify for the Europa League round.
Juve just needed to either grab a result against Paris Saint-Germain or hope Maccabi Haifa lost against Benfica Thursday night. While they could not manage a point at home to the visiting Parisians, Juve was helped out by Benfica. The Portuguese club put six by Maccabi Haifa in Israel.
Benfica edge PSG in Group H
Despite PSG beating Juve, the huge 6-1 victory by Benfica gave the Portuguese the group title. Both PSG and Benfica finished level on points in the group; however, Benfica got the edge on total away goals in the group stage. Teams that won their Champions League groups will look to avoid PSG in the knockout round.
PHOTO: IMAGO / LaPresse
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