UEFA Champions League Group E wrap: Juve seal top spot, Chelsea eliminated
By Football News
Juventus clinched top spot in Group E with a 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk, while defending champions Chelsea bowed out despite winning 6-1.
Needing only a point to qualify for the Champions League round of 16, an own goal from Olexandr Kucher shortly before the hour mark sent the Bianconeri to victory, leapfrogging the Ukrainians, who were forced to settle for second place, with third placed Chelsea dropping into the Europa League despite their victory over FC Nordsjaelland.
The match took some time to get going, with the first sniff of an opportunity falling Juve's way, when Sebastian Giovinco clipped a pass through to Mirko Vucinic, whose first time volley from an angle was sent into orbit.
Neither side seemed in any hurry to commit great numbers forward, though Juve did manage a late flurry to end the first half. Stephan Lichtsteiner's volleyed cross had to be cleared expertly by Darijo Srna, before a swerving drive from Giovinco from 30 yards out forced Andriy Pyatov into a difficult catch.
The pattern changed completely in the second half. Shortly after the restart, Gianluigi Buffon was forced to punch a dangerous free-kick back into his own area, where Alex Texiera connected, but his effort went over the bar.
Moments later, Andrea Pirlo had a great chance after evading his marker at the edge of the box, but his shot clipped the post on its way out.
The breakthrough was coming though, and it fell Juve's way. A low, hard cross from Lichtsteiner was contested by Giovinco and Kucher, with the Shakhtar man's final touch leading the ball over the goalline.
Shakhtar nearly got back into the match with 20 minutes remaining, as Razvan Rat's telling cross was deflected onto the post after a messy scramble in the box.
With time trickling away, Shakhtar seemed to accept their fate, and failed to really test Buffon in the closing stages as Juve finished in control of the match and the group.
Chelsea were relatively impressive in annihilating Group E minnows Nordsjaelland 6-1 but a points haul of 10 was not enough to prevent the European champions becoming the first holders to fail to qualify for the last 16.
The win was Rafael Benitez's first in charge since taking over two weeks ago after two scoreless draws and a loss to West Ham in his first three games.
The manager could at least take solace in a less poisonous welcome from the home fans and a brace of goals from his underperforming striker Fernando Torres, which were supplemented by a David Luiz penalty, a Gary Cahill header and Juan Mata and Oscar strikes.
Joshua John scored what turned out to be a consolation for the visitors but there could have been even more goals had Nicolai Stokholm and Eden Hazard not traded penalty misses in a crazy few minutes before Luiz showed them how it was done.