United, Spurs, Barca and Schalke net top spots

AFP, Wednesday 8 Dec 2010

Not satisfied with reaching the last 16 of the Champions League in their debut season, Tottenham Hotspur wrapped up top spot in Group A at the expense of holders Inter Milan on Wednesday

Manchester United held Valencia to clinch the top spot

As Spurs celebrated the end of a fine group showing in the knowledge they have earned the right to avoid the biggest guns in the next phase there was further cheer for compatriots Manchester United after Brazilian star Anderson's first goal at Old Trafford landed them top spot in Group C in securing a 1-1 draw with challengers Valencia.

United had won the away game with the Spaniards with Mexican find Javier "Little Pea" Hernandez bagging the only goal - but this time it was another Hernandez - Valencia's Pablo - who made United sweat with his opener on 32 minutes, firing past 20-year-old reserve keeper Ben Amos after Chori Dominguez had fed him.

But Sir Alex Ferguson's men rallied well after spurning a chance to become the first side to go six Champions League games without conceding a goal. And after Dimitar Berbatov had notably wasted several chances Anderson was in the right place at the right time to score on the rebound after Vicente Guaita had parried an initial meaty effort from Korean Park Ji-Sun.

The draw gave United 14 points from six unbeaten group games - three more than Valencia, who could now as runners-up face one of the biggest fish in the last 16.

Rangers - already qualified for the Europa League - drew 1-1 at Turkish tailenders Bursaspor, who ended with a grand total of just that one point.

Whereas United had been expected to come out on top in their group, Spurs on the other hand had been widely expected to be satisfied in principle in ensuring a top-two finish - behind Inter.
But Harry Redknapp's side have grown in stature since a dreadful first-half mauling in the San Siro early on in the competition.

Although they could only turn a 4-0 defecit into a 4-3 loss on that occasion Spurs won the return and have not looked back and Tuesday was their fifth straight match in which they have scored at least three goals.

A Jermain Defoe double in a topsy-turvy game was the highlight and Spurs were further cheered by the news that Inter had been thumped 3-0 in Bremen to send the Londoners through with 11 points to the Italians' 10, ramping up the pressure on the holders' boss Rafa Benitez.

Spurs took an early lead thanks to a Peter Wisgerhof own goal as Twente's veteran debutant goalkeeper Sander Boschker kicked at fresh air following his teammate's backpass.
Defoe then bagged the limelight while Denny Landzaat, Roberto Rosales and Nacer Chadli netted for the Dutch.

In Germany, Werder Bremen might have been out of contention but they still took Inter to the cleaners for a first win in the group. The hapless nature of Inter's showing will only reignite the debate over the future of Benitez, whose men are ten points off the pace in Serie A as they struggle to reach the heights of last season's treble under Jose Mourinho.
Austrians Sebastian Proedl and Marko Arnautovic and Peruvian veteran Claudio Pizarro scored the Werder goals.

Elsewhere, Schalke cast aside poor German league form to win Group B after a 2-1 win at Benfica while Lyon are also through despite a home draw with Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

At Camp Nou, a second-string Barcelona side defeated Rubin Kazan 2-0 courtesy of goals from Fontas, 51, and Vazquez, 82. Barcelona top the group D while FC Copenhagen became the first Danish team to reach the Champions League knockout stage after beating Panathinaikis 3-1.

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