Salzburg cruised past Genk 4-1 on Wednesday to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League.

Jesse Marsch's side did not hit the heights of the 6-2 thumping of their Belgian opponents in September but they scarcely needed to get out of second gear against Hannes Wolf's limited outfit.

Patson Daka – who had earlier missed a glaring opportunity – put the Austrian side ahead after 43 minutes before Takumi Minamino doubled their advantage just 98 seconds later.

The impressive Hwang Hee-chan added a third in the second half before Mbwana Samatta headed in a consolation five minutes from time. 

Erling Haaland added a final flourish for Salzburg, though, to ensure they go into their clash with Liverpool on December 10 knowing they will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Jurgen Klopp's side.

Daka was guilty of a glaring miss 10 minutes before the interval, blazing over from eight yards after being teed up by Hwang's clever backheel.

He made up for that two minutes before the interval, though, by bundling home after Gaetan Coucke had failed to hold onto Dominik Szoboszlai's half-volley from long range.

The hosts' misery was compounded just two minutes later when Minamino lashed home from 15 yards after being picked out inside the penalty area by Enock Mwepu.

Genk came agonisingly close to reducing the deficit shortly after the hour mark but Sebastien Dewaest's header from a corner crashed back off Carlos' right-hand post.

Any hopes of a grandstand finale were extinguished in the 69th minute when Hwang slotted home from substitute Haaland's low cross.

Haaland bizarrely had a goal ruled out for a perceived foul before Samatta nodded in from close range after Carlos had failed to hold a tame shot from distance.

Teenage Norwegian Haaland did get on the scoresheet to keep up his record of scoring in every Champions League game this season three minutes from time, with Salzburg's attention now turning to that clash with the Premier League leaders in two weeks.

 

What does it mean? Salzburg take it to the final matchday

It is testament to the job that Marsch has done at Salzburg that his side will take on Liverpool in two weeks knowing a win will see them progress to the last 16.

If that happens and Napoli beat Genk – which would be expected after this woeful display from the Belgian side – then the reigning champions would be knocked out.

Haaland belatedly makes his mark

Haaland was a surprise absence from the starting XI and he certainly made up for lost time after his introduction. He created a goal, had one disallowed and then struck late on to become just the third player to score in his first five Champions League appearances, joining Alessandro Del Piero and Diego Costa in that illustrious group.

Coucke gift wraps opener for Salzburg

Genk's capitulation before the interval was kick-started by some woeful goalkeeping from Coucke. Szoboszlai's shot should have been gathered with the minimum of fuss but the Genk goalkeeper fumbled it right into the path of Daka, who could scarcely believe his luck.

What's next?

Genk are in domestic action on Saturday against Sint-Truiden before concluding their Champions League campaign against Napoli on December 10. Salzburg, meanwhile, face Admira in the Bundesliga on Sunday before that crunch clash with Liverpool in a fortnight.

Ajax relocated their Champions League swagger to go top of Group H with a 2-0 win over Lille.

Erik ten Hag's entertainers took a solitary point from their back-to-back meetings with Chelsea but Hakim Ziyech put them ahead early on at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

A hero of last season's unlikely run to the semi-finals, Ziyech's brilliant goal launched an outing where the Eredivisie champions were typically dazzling and vulnerable.

Lille's finishing let them down, however, with Jonathan Bamba and Jonathan Ikone the main culprits, before Quincy Promes made sure of victory.

Ajax's opener came after 94 seconds and in delightful fashion.

Wonderful one-touch passes from Sergino Dest and Donny van de Beek ended with Zakaria Labyad picking out skipper Dusan Tadic, whose lay-off allowed Ziyech to dispatch an unerring strike past Mike Maignan.

The goalscorer returned the favour when Tadic had a powerful angled effort saved in the 12th minute, while Victor Osimhen's theatrical tumble inside the Ajax area underlined Lille's early desperation.

Bamba tracked back diligently to make a vital interception as a lurking Dest hoped to put Ajax 2-0 up, but the Lille winger had a moment to forget in the 31st minute when he blazed over from six yards with the goal at his mercy.

Lille resumed on the front foot, only for Ikone to join Bamba by producing a horror miss.

Osimhen muscled past Perr Schuurs after Lisandro Martinez's poor header and cut back for Ikone to lift inexplicably beyond the crossbar with the outside of his right boot.

Martinez stepped out of defence with a composure belying his early second-half efforts and found Ziyech on the right to curl a cross towards Promes for a smart back-post finish.

Lille stuck gamely to their task, although Andre Onana's superb double save from Bamba and Yusuf Yazici ensured their endeavours ended without reward.

Ziyech was denied a deserved second by a VAR handball verdict as Ajax kept pushing and Van de Beek thudded a powerful effort against the post.

What does it mean? Advantage Ajax but all to play for

Chelsea and Valencia's earlier thrilling 2-2 draw at the Mestalla contributed to an ideal Wednesday for Ajax, who lead the way with 10 points from the Blues and Los Che on eight apiece. It means a draw with Valencia in Amsterdam next month will see them through. Lille only have pride to play for against Chelsea due to a solitary point from five matches.

Ziyech stars for Amsterdammers

Ten Hag will hope a grimacing Ziyech departing holding his arm five minutes from time was not on account of any serious problem. As is often the case when Ajax hit top gear, the Morocco forward was a delight. An over-enthusiastic fan invaded the pitch to embrace Ziyech towards the end of the second half and you could definitely see where the youngster was coming from.

Bamba and Ikone serve up video nasties

Lille were rarely able to exercise any control against supreme opponents, yet continued attacking with gusto. It made Bamba and Ikone's horrible misses all the more lamentable.

What's next

Ajax travel to FC Twente on Sunday, a day after Lille host Dijon in Ligue 1.

Emil Forsberg scored two late goals, including a 96th-minute equaliser, to send RB Leipzig through to the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-2 draw against Benfica.

Benfica needed victory to remain in the competition and held a two-goal lead late in Wednesday's clash at Red Bull Arena.

Leipzig suffered an early setback when Pizzi struck and Carlos Vinicius added a second just before the hour to seemingly kill off the contest.

But the Bundesliga high-flyers picked up the point they needed to advance through thanks to Forsberg's dramatic double, the Sweden international converting a penalty and then heading in at the death.

Neither Liverpool nor Napoli could secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League as Jurgen Klopp's side drew 1-1 with their Italian visitors at Anfield.

The Reds – whose only previous defeat in all competitions this season came against Napoli in September – wanted a victory to secure top spot in Group E with a match to spare.

Yet it was Napoli, also wanting a win to ensure their progression, who took the lead thanks to Dries Mertens' composed 21st-minute finish.

Roberto Firmino missed two big chances to equalise, though it was Dejan Lovren who proved the unlikely hero for the Premier League leaders with a towering header as the points were shared in Klopp's 100th European match as a coach.

Liverpool were dealt a blow in the 19th minute, Fabinho unable to continue after sustaining an apparent ankle injury in a collision with Hirving Lozano.

Georginio Wijnaldum replaced his stricken team-mate, but Napoli took full advantage of some disorganised Liverpool defending – Mertens keeping his cool when one-on-one with Alisson after latching onto Giovanni Di Lorenzo's long ball.

VAR checked the legality of Napoli's opener on two counts, first for a potential foul from Mertens on Virgil van Dijk and then for offside, but the goal was allowed to stand.

James Milner was denied by Alex Meret before half-time, though Kalidou Koulibaly had to spare his goalkeeper's blushes when he hooked Firmino's effort off the line.

Though Firmino squandered another fine chance just after the hour, Lovren made no mistake two minutes later as he headed in from Milner's corner.

And though there was no late winner for Liverpool on this occasion, Napoli failed to muster another opening at the other end as their winless run under Carlo Ancelotti was stretched to seven games in all competitions.

 

What does it mean? Group E hanging in the balance

Group E could be the one to watch heading into matchweek six, with Liverpool, Napoli and Salzburg – who hammered Genk and have seven points – all in with a chance of securing a place in the knockout stages.

A draw for Liverpool away at Salzburg will be enough to see the defending champions and Napoli through, though the Reds would be out if they lost and Napoli beat Genk.

Mertens makes his mark

Napoli's forward only has four goals in Serie A so far this season, but already has five in this Champions League campaign, and took his chance in clinical fashion, with the goal coming from one of just two touches Napoli managed in Liverpool's box in the first half.

Fabinho's fitness a cause for concern

Ex-Monaco enforcer Fabinho has become a crucial player in Liverpool's midfield, and Klopp – who received a booking for complaining over a decision going against his side in first-half stoppage time – can only hope the Brazil international's issue will not be serious enough to keep him out for an extended amount of time heading into the festive period.

What's next?

Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday, with Napoli facing Bologna in Serie A a day later.

Inter's Champions League fate is in their own hands after Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku inspired a 3-1 win at Slavia Prague on Wednesday.

Martinez's crisp finish put Inter ahead before they saw a second goal chalked off and Slavia instead awarded a penalty, which Tomas Soucek converted to tee up a draw that would do little for either side.

But late strikes from the outstanding Lukaku and Martinez secured the precious points for Inter as they bid to reach the knockout stage.

Antonio Conte's men are second in Group F on seven points, ahead of third-placed Borussia Dortmund on head-to-head.

Inter will qualify if they beat Barcelona in a mammoth San Siro showdown on matchday six, while Dortmund host bottom side Slavia and hope for a Nerazzurri slip-up.

 

Lionel Messi starred on his 700th appearance for the club as Barcelona comfortably beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at home to progress to the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Barcelona already topped Group F but have confirmed their place in the next phase, with Dortmund 's fate no longer in their own hands on the closing matchday.

Luis Suarez scored from Messi's pass to open the scoring at Camp Nou on Wednesday and then turned provider for the skipper as Barca scored twice in the space of five first-half minutes.

Messi, reportedly set to win a sixth Ballon d'Or next week, added a second assist to a typically glittering individual display by setting up Antoine Griezmann to seal matters after the break with substitute Jadon Sancho firing home late on for Dortmund.

Nico Schulz almost scored a second-minute opener for Dortmund but found Marc-Andre ter Stegen equal to his effort with Messi then unusually wasteful from a free-kick at the other end.

Suarez was flagged offside after converting Messi's throughball but the same combination led to the opener in the 29th minute, the Uruguay striker coolly converting.

Messi added a second, an arrowed finish from Suarez's pass, with Barca bursting into life after ex-Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele had to be replaced by Griezmann due to a thigh injury.

Under-fire Dortmund boss Lucien Favre sent on Sancho at the break and Messi was then booked for diving by referee Clement Turpin after going down easily in the box.

Ter Stegen saved from Julian Brandt on the hour and that miss proved key as Barca broke clinically, Messi sending Griezmann clear to slot home his first Champions League goal for the club. 

Sancho smashed home a super strike to give Dortmund a consolation, but they must better Inter's result at home to Barcelona when the Bundesliga side face Slavia Prague at home next month.


What does it mean? Dortmund's problems mount

It is now 10 goals conceded in three games in all competitions for Dortmund, who would likely have lost by a greater scoreline had Barcelona kept their foot on the throttle.

Ernesto Valverde called for perspective over Barca's own issues before the game and with his team top of LaLiga and into the next round, he might have a point. He can point to the biggest competitive crowd of the season to answer his critics, too.


Mesmerising Messi leads Barca again

Barcelona did not get going until after Dembele's latest injury, with Messi taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Within just a few minutes he had created two goals for Suarez, though one was chalked off, and scored one of his own to put the game beyond Dortmund before later setting up Griezmann and hitting the crossbar with a free-kick. 

He only hit top form for that brief period in the first half, but it was enough to win the points for Barca, though a rare booking for simulation was a bum note on a performance that saw him set yet another record. Messi has now scored against 34 opponents in the Champions League, one more than Raul and old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.


Favre on the brink

Dortmund coach Favre named a strange lineup with four full-backs included and star man Sancho on the bench, with his side quickly overrun in midfield after a bright start.

A 4-0 Klassiker thrashing away to Bayern Munich recently piled pressure on Favre and his position is even more insecure after another one-sided defeat.


What's next?

Dortmund are away to Jurgen Klinsmann's Hertha Berlin on Saturday, the day before Barcelona are away to Atletico Madrid in a huge LaLiga clash. On the last day of the Champions League group stage on December 10, Barca go to Inter and Dortmund host Slavia.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi broke a Champions League record by scoring against a 34th different team with his goal at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

Messi doubled Barca's lead after setting up Luis Suarez's opener in the Group F clash at Camp Nou.

Dortmund became the 34th side against which Messi has scored in the Champions League as the Argentina forward surpassed a mark he had shared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul.

Messi received a neat pass from Suarez before calmly converting past Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki in the 33rd minute.

The 32-year-old only equalled Ronaldo and Raul last month, when he netted in a 2-1 win over Slavia Prague.

Messi also set up Antoine Griezmann for Barcelona's third as they sealed qualification. 

Frank Lampard is hopeful the hip injury suffered by Tammy Abraham in Chelsea's Champions League draw with Valencia is not as serious as initially feared.

The England international, who has scored 10 goals in 13 Premier League games this season, limped off the field at the end of the first half and appeared in significant discomfort.

He was eventually helped onto a stretcher and missed the remainder of a 2-2 draw that leaves Group H wide open.

It was suggested to Lampard that Abraham had been taken to hospital, but the Chelsea manager refuted that.

"I'm not sure if that's true, but he's in the dressing room now," he said.

"The word at half-time was it looked quite severe, a bang on the hip. Then the word after the game was it might not be as severe as we first thought.

"That's as much details as I have.”

Speaking about the game, which saw the visitors denied by Daniel Wass' late effort after battling back from a goal down, Lampard admitted the open nature of the contest in Spain was not what he had planned for.

"We both had incredible chances, we had one in the first few minutes," said Lampard. 

"We had numerous ones in the first half, so did they. Maybe their chances were more clear-cut than ours. I wouldn't say I feel fortunate.

"Did I love the match? No I didn't love it, because it hasn't been many times this season where I have had to say 'we kind of got away with that'. Today was one of those because they missed big opportunities.

"Perhaps we deserved the slices of luck that we got, but I won't take away from the fact that we have to take some of our opportunities. It could have been 5-5, 6-6 one of those games."

Liverpool were dealt an early blow in Wednesday's Champions League clash with Napoli as they lost Fabinho to an apparent ankle injury.

The former Monaco midfielder has been a key player for Liverpool this season, making 19 appearances across all competitions.

However, Jurgen Klopp's side were dealt a blow when Fabinho sustained a knock in the 14th minute, with the 26-year-old receiving treatment after Hirving Lozano toppled into him as a result of Dejan Lovren's challenge.

Fabinho attempted to play on, but to no avail, with Georginio Wijnaldum replacing him in the 19th minute.

Liverpool's frustration grew two minutes later, Dries Mertens racing in behind to coolly put Napoli ahead.

The Reds also had concerns over Virgil van Dijk, who claimed he had been fouled by Mertens in the build up to Napoli's opener, but the Dutchman carried on.

Ousmane Dembele limped off for Barcelona in the first half of a Champions League clash against his old club Borussia Dortmund.

Dembele was surprisingly handed a place in the team at the expense of Antoine Griezmann but only managed 25 minutes of the Group F clash at Camp Nou.

The France forward appeared to hurt his left ankle in an innocuous challenge with a Dortmund defender and had to be taken off by coach Ernesto Valverde.

Griezmann was introduced for Dembele with Barca soon opening the scoring through Luis Suarez.

Dembele has struggled for form and fitness so far this season, scoring a single goal in five LaLiga appearances, while he has failed to find the net in four Champions League games.

Barca will secure qualification for the next round if they beat the out of form Bundesliga side.

Zenit reinvigorated their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stages with a 2-0 win over Lyon in St Petersburg.

Zenit and Lyon are on seven points apiece heading into the final matchday thanks to a precision headed finish from powerhouse forward Artem Dzyuba in the 42nd minute and a late deflected Magomed Ozdoev strike.

Lyon enjoyed the lion's share of possession, controlling the action for long periods, but lacked a cutting edge in the injury absence of Netherlands star Memphis Depay.

Sergei Semak's men responded well to consecutive defeats at the hands of Group G leaders RB Leipzig to move above their Ligue 1 opponents into the second qualifying spot by virtue of a superior head-to-head record.

Both teams had bright moments during the opening half hour but Lyon had the greater control and almost led in the 23rd minute – Zenit goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov plunging bravely to prevent Ozdoev from turning Bertrand Traore's cross into his own net.

The hosts came close when Sardar Azmoun got to Daler Kuzyaev's chipped pass ahead of Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes and the bouncing ball came back off the left post.

Azmoun's towering striker partner Dzyuba found the breakthrough three minutes before the break, expertly directing Douglas Santos' corner past the despairing Lopes.

Moussa Dembele headed just wide as the hour approached, as Lyon forced their opponents on to the retreat.

Lopes leapt theatrically to gather a speculative Sebastian Driussi strike after Lyon again failed to deal with a set piece, but the threat from Zenit was increasingly sporadic.

Nevertheless, one of those raids six minutes from time was enough to seal the points as Ozdoev's deflected drive from substitute Yuri Zhirkov's lay-off left Lopes with no chance.

What does it mean? All to play for on matchday six

Zenit will remain ahead of Lyon if they match the latter's result in Leipzig when they travel to Benfica, with other permutations to be decided once Group G's first and last sides clash later on Wednesday.

Dominant Dzyuba proves decisive

A throwback centre-forward unlikely to win any marks for artistic impression, Russia international Dzyuba is a handful for any defence and Lyon never looked comfortable in his presence.

The 31-year-old's little-and-large partnership with Azmoun will always pose questions and his finish was one any classic number nine would be proud of.

Cornet fails to hit the right notes

Goals home and away against Manchester City last season served notice of Maxwel Cornet's pedigree at this level, but the Lyon winger remains a frustratingly inconsistent performer. He was too often on the margins in St Petersburg, failing to play his part in terms of filling the Memphis void.

What's next

Zenit return to their own patch on Sunday to host Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League, while Lyon will have to regroup in time for a Ligue 1 trip to Strasbourg.

Daniel Wass scored a fortuitous and crucial late equaliser for Valencia to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea on Wednesday in a thrilling contest that left Champions League Group H wide open.

Frank Lampard's men had looked on course to leave Mestalla with the victory that would have clinched their spot in the knockout phase after Christian Pulisic's go-ahead strike was added to by a Kepa Arrizabalaga penalty save, but Wass' effort led to a share of the spoils.

A dramatic, end-to-end first half saw both sides threaten regularly and, despite some wretched finishing, two goals in as many minutes from Carlos Soler and Mateo Kovacic – his first for Chelsea – meant the score was level at the interval.

Everything looked to be going Chelsea's way after Pulisic struck and Kepa parried Dani Parejo's penalty, but Wass' right-wing cross rather fortunately went straight in with eight minutes left to rescue Valencia, who would have won it but for an inexcusable stoppage-time miss by Rodrigo. 

 

Antoine Griezmann dropped to the bench as Lionel Messi was selected for a 700th Barcelona appearance in Wednesday's Champions League Group F encounter with Borussia Dortmund.

Griezmann's fellow France international and ex-Dortmund star Ousmane Dembele will start on the left of Ernesto Valverde's front three alongside Messi and Luis Suarez.

Ivan Rakitic comes into the midfield for only his second start of the campaign, with Arthur joining Griezmann among the replacements.

Barca are top of the group on eight points – one ahead of Dortmund, who are in turn three points better off than Inter in third with two matches remaining.

Lucien Favre's men have struggled domestically of late, forced to come from 3-0 down to claim a 3-3 Bundesliga draw against struggling Paderborn last Friday.

England winger Jadon Sancho scored to launch the fightback but begins on the bench at Camp Nou.

Chelsea were dealt a potentially major injury blow as Tammy Abraham needed to be carried away on a stretcher at the end of the first half against Valencia on Wednesday.

England international Abraham has been a revelation for the Blues this term, scoring 10 goals in 13 Premier League matches, but he could be set for a spell on the sidelines.

The striker hobbled off the pitch before the half-time whistle in the matchday five Champions League contest and was seen clutching the left side of his torso after an awkward fall.

Chelsea's medical staff initially helped Abraham back towards the dugout but, as the rest of the players headed inside for the break, the visibly emotional forward was then helped onto a stretcher and carried away.

Michy Batshuayi, who endured an unimpressive loan spell at Valencia last season, replaced Abraham at the interval.

Real Madrid confirmed Eden Hazard only suffered a bruised ankle in Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain, meaning he is not expected to be a doubt for El Clasico on December 18.

Belgium international Hazard impressed before his withdrawal 21 minutes from time in the home Champions League clash, as Madrid went on to give up a two-goal lead in the final nine minutes.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane acknowledged the problem was a worry, claiming it was "more than a simple blow".

But the club confirmed on Wednesday that the winger only suffered bruising rather than ligament damage.

"After the tests performed on our player Eden Hazard by the Real Madrid medical services, he has been diagnosed with an external perimalleolar contusion [bruise] on his right leg," a statement read.

According to media reports, Hazard is expected to be out for around 10 days, meaning there should be minimal risk of him missing the Clasico in Madrid's penultimate LaLiga match of 2019.

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