Champions League exit for Liverpool, Arsenal win

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Champions League exit for Liverpool, Arsenal win

PARIS - Five-time champions Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage on Tuesday as a 1-0 win for Group E rivals Fiorentina against Lyon took the Italians into the knockout phase.

Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Hungarian minnows Debrecen was only good enough to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the Europa League. Premier League rivals Arsenal, by contrast, eased into the knockout stage when they beat Standard Liege 2-0 to finish top of Group H.

Champions Barcelona can also be more upbeat about defending their title. They had faced a risk of elimination but first newly crowned Russian champions Rubin Kazan could only draw 0-0 at home to Dynamo Kiev and then the Catalan giants put on a grand display to beat Inter Milan 2-0. Barca now lead Group F on eight points, two clear of Inter and Rubin, who play each other in Milan in a fortnight.

Meanwhile Scottish football plumbed new depths as Rangers lost 2-0 at home to Stuttgart in Group G.

That result, combined with Unirea Urziceni’s 1-0 victory over Sevilla in Romania, left Walter Smith’s men without any hope of reaching the second-tier European competition.

Liverpool got the start they needed when they took an early lead through David Ngog but were unable to make much of an impression after the news filtered through that Fiorentina had taken the lead via a Juan Vargas penalty.

It was no more than Fiorentina deserved, having twice hit the woodwork against a Lyon side that could not be described as under strength.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez refused to be downbeat about his side’s worrying form but with just two wins in their last 11 matches he will need a quick turnaround in their fortunes to help ease the pressure.

“When you are in the Champions League five years in a row and you haven’t qualified, it’s part of the game,” Benitez said. “Now we have to do well, win [the last group game] against Fiorentina and see what happens in the Premier League. I’m 100 percent sure we’ll finish in the top four.”

Barcelona - whose shamed French star Thierry Henry made his 100th appearance for the club - got off to a dream start by taking the lead through Gerard Pique and added a second as youth academy graduate Pedro shot home. Inter coach Jose Mourinho was for once generous in defeat.

“Barcelona were the only team that played and they played very well,” said Mourinho, who used to work as a translator for the late Sir Bobby Robson at the Catalan club. “They were far superior and we can’t have any complaints about the victory.”

Arsenal took the lead through Frenchman Samir Nasri in the first half and added a second through a stunning long-range effort by Denilson.

“It’s really good for the team [to qualify] because we still have a game to go and we can relax a little and give some rest to some players, and make sure that some of the players who don’t play too much can get a game,” said Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas. AFP

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