August 22, 2006

Liverpool, Milan, Benfica and Hamburg safely through

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool, AC Milan, Benfica and Hamburg
SV, all former European champions, and twice runners-up
Valencia advanced to the group stage of the Champions League on

Milan put their domestic difficulties behind them with a
2-1 victory at Red Star Belgrade to go through 3-1 on aggregate
while Liverpool had a nervy last 25 minutes in a 1-1 draw with
Maccabi Haifa in neutral Kiev for a 3-2 aggregate.

Benfica thrashed Austria Vienna 3-0 in Lisbon for a 4-1
aggregate, Valencia were similarly impressive in beating
another Austrian side, Salzburg 3-0 for 3-1 overall, while
Hamburg advanced on the away goals rule after a 1-1 draw at
Spanish side Osasuna.

Red Star, also former winners of the European Cup, found
Milan too hot to handle despite the passionate support of a
passionate 55,000 Belgrade crowd.

Filippo Inzaghi headed Milan into a 29th minute lead and
Clarence Seedorf made sure in the 78th before Dusan Djokic got
a consolation for the hosts.

Maccabi were forced to play in Ukraine because of the
security situation in Israel and Liverpool looked like the home
side as they dominated the first half.

Liverpool, the 2005 champions, finally converted a chance
in the 54th minute when England striker Peter Crouch scored
with a header but Maccabi equalised nine minutes later through
Roberto Colautti, the Argentine striker who scored their goal
in the first leg.


Another goal for the Israelis would have taken the tie into
extra time but Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina prevented it with a
great late save from Colautti.

Portugal will have three teams in the group stage for the
first time after Benfica joined Porto and Sporting in
Thursday's draw.

Rui Costa, back from Milan at the club where he began his
career as a schoolboy, opened the scoring, Nuno Gomes made it
2-0 before halftime and Armando Petit got the third in the

Strike duo Fernando Morientes and David Villa turned things
round for Valencia with goals after 13 and 32 minutes as
Salzburg saw their 1-0 first-leg lead quickly blown away.

One goal for the visitors would have still sent them
through but the final word went to Valencia's David Silva.

Osasuna, who held Hamburg 0-0 in the first leg, looked on
the verge of going through after Carlos Cuellar put them in
front six minutes into the second leg but Hamburg scrambled the
decisive away goal through Nigel de Jong 16 minutes from the

The rest of the third qualifying round is completed on
Wednesday, with the draw for the group stage taking place in
Monaco on Thursday evening.