Last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund were spared a Champions League exit when a dramatic late goal from Kevin Grosskreutz sent the German side into the last 16 on Wednesday.
Dortmund, who beat Olympique Marseille 2-1, Arsenal and Napoli all finished on 12 points with the Bundesliga team topping Group F and the Italians proving the odd side out on head-to-head superiority despite a 2-0 victory over the English Premier League leaders.
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AC Milan will be Italy’s only representatives in the knockout stage as Galatasaray, Zenit St Petersburg and Schalke 04 secured the remaining last 16 places in Monday’s draw which will feature four representatives each from the Premier League and Bundesliga.
Barcelona, who should have Lionel Messi back from injury when the competition resumes in February, signed off from the group phase in style with Brazil striker Neymar scoring a hat-trick, his first Champions League goals, in a 6-1 romp over Celtic at the Nou Camp.
Jose Mourinho can also look forward to the draw as Group E winners Chelsea went through the motions in overcoming Steaua Bucharest 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Napoli, who drop into the Europa League, are only the second team to be eliminated from the group phase with 12 points from six games after Paris St Germain in 1997-98.
In contrast, Russia’s Zenit finished runners-up in Group G by becoming the first team to qualify for the knockout stages with six points.
Injury-hit Dortmund were just minutes away from a trapdoor into Europe’s second-tier competition when Grosskreutz found the back of the net with a deflected shot three minutes from time against 10-man Marseille.
“It was great feeling to score and to score such a goal. We deserved it, it was sensational,” said the match-winner.
Napoli’s victory, secured with late efforts from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon, the second deep into stoppage-time, could not save Rafa Benitez’s side from an agonising exit as Arsenal had to lose by three goals in order to miss out on qualification.
“We are happy to be through because it was very difficult,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“Naples played very well tonight but we were a little bit on edge for some minutes, it was nervous in the end, but we got through.”
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