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A successful Inter-mission

Holders Barcelona booked a Champions League last 16 berth with a 2-1 win at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday and were joined by Group F rivals Inter Milan, who sealed their passage with a 2-0 home defeat of Rubin Kazan.

sports Updated: Dec 11, 2009 00:32 IST
Agencies

Holders Barcelona booked a Champions League last 16 berth with a 2-1 win at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday and were joined by Group F rivals Inter Milan, who sealed their passage with a 2-0 home defeat of Rubin Kazan.

VfB Stuttgart also went through after an early three-goal blitz gave them a 3-1 win over Romanians Unirea Urziceni, as did Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus who beat already qualified Arsenal 1-0 at home.

Olympique Lyon thumped Hungarian rivals Debrecen 4-0 but finished second in Group E behind Fiorentina, who came from behind in a 2-1 win at Liverpool, eliminated before the final day of the competition's group stage.

Barca were also in danger of making an early exit after Artem Milevskiy's glancing header gave Dynamo a second-minute lead but Spain midfielder Xavi dispelled their fears when he rounded off a flowing team move shortly after the half-hour.

“I want to especially congratulate the entire squad because they put in an enormous effort, it was a terrible group and we had to overcome a lot,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola told a news conference.

“We reacted well to going behind early and after the Dynamo goal they hardly got past the middle of the pitch. We showed patience in moving them around and we were able to control the match,” he said.

FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi completed Barca's comeback in the 86th minute, when he gave goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy no chance with a curling free kick.

Sitting at the top of La Liga and having stayed on course to become the first team to retain the Champions League in its present format, Barcelona will head confidently into the Club World Cup already underway in Abu Dhabi.

Inter progressed after the excellent Mario Balotelli set up strike partner Samuel Eto'o with a clever back-heel for Inter's opening goal at the San Siro and then sealed their win with a thunderous free kick on the hour.

Rubin, who clinched their second successive Russian league title last month, will carry on in the Europa League after the winter break along with the other seven third-placed teams from the continent's premier club competition.

“We have played with an attacking line-up, it would have been difficult to play with a more offensive side,” Inter coach Jose Mourinho said.

“My team understood their responsibility in the game, it wasn't extraordinary,” he added.

Unirea fell behind in the second minute when their Romanian compatriot Ciprian Marica headed Stuttgart into the lead and there was no way back after Christian Trasch and Pavel Pogrebnyak made it 3-0 with only 11 minutes played.

A Leonardo solo effort shortly after the break gave Olympiakos their Group H win against a second-string Arsenal side, with Standard Liege securing third place thanks to a last-gasp 1-1 home draw against AZ Alkmaar.

Goalkeeper Sinan Bolat headed Standard's equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time after the visitors had taken a first-half lead through Jeremain Lens.

Sevilla made sure of the top spot in Group G ahead of Stuttgart after a Frederic Kanoute penalty handed them a 1-0 home win over Rangers.

Batefimbi Gomis and Michel Bastos sent Lyon on their way against Debrecen in the first half, with Bosnia midfielder Miralem Pjanic and Aly Cissokho completing the rout.

A Yossi Benayoun goal gave Liverpool the lead at Anfield but Fiorentina, who needed a win to finish top of the group, replied through Martin Jorgensen before Alberto Gilardino struck an injury-time winner for the Italian side.