The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage concluded this week, with the final few teams booking their place in the round of 16.
Game 6 highlights saw Bayern Munich win their sixth straight game and Rangers clinch their sixth straight Champions League title, Benfica beat PSG for top spot in Group H, and Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti Ancelotti beat Alex Ferguson to become manager. Most wins (103) in tournament history.
Here are the highlights from this week’s round of games.
Giroud’s brace takes AC Milan into the round of 16
AC Milan’s long wait to return to the knockout stages of the Champions League ended on Wednesday with an impressive 4-0 win over Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg to secure second place in Group E.
Veteran French striker Olivier Giroud was the hero of the day, scoring two goals and setting up two more to send the game into overdrive. Rossoneri Reached the Round of 16 for the first time since 2013-14. According to Opta, Giroud (at 36 years and 33 days) is the oldest player to have been involved in three or more goals in a Champions League match since the sports analytics company began collecting the data in 2003.
A draw at the San Siro would have been enough to see Milan progress past Salzburg, but the Italians never gave up after taking the lead through Giroud. The Frenchman was at the heart of Milan’s best moments, serving as the main reference point of an attack that gave the visitors all they could manage. Thanks to his physical strength and ability to be in the right place at the right time, Giroud has been a constant thorn in Salzburg’s side.
Wednesday’s win was another small step towards redemption for an AC Milan side who are truly one of the game’s historic giants, but who have fallen on hard times in recent years. The Serie A club was once synonymous with the competition, winning it seven times (only Real Madrid, with 13, have been crowned European champions more often) while world stars Marco van Basten and Paolo Maldini wore their famous reds. And wearing black jerseys.
Now, almost a decade later, AC Milan finds itself back where it belongs, among Europe’s elite competing for club football’s richest prize.
We started this project four years ago. This is the year we have to push harder. Maldini said after Wednesday’s win that we want to be leading in Italy to return to the European side that Milan have historically enjoyed.
CANADIAN CONTENT: Eustáquio scores again for FC Porto
Last week, Canadian Stéphane Eustaquio scored his first career Champions League goal in FC Porto’s 4-0 Group B win over Belgian Club Brugge.
On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Eustaquio, of Leamington, Ont., scored again in the 24th minute of Porto’s 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid. With three points, Porto topped Group B.
Porto’s Brazilian winger Galeno came down the left wing before sending a low cross across the box for Eustaquio to fire into the corner of the net just as he was brought down by an Atletico player.
Eustáquio has been a key starter for the Canadian men’s team, scoring three goals and three assists in 26 games since the start of international play in 2019. He is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and is very involved in Porto’s attack as a play. Finally, which bodes well for Canada as it prepares to begin its World Cup campaign later this month.
Elsewhere in Group B action on Tuesday, Ciel Lauren made his Champions League debut for Berg, coming off the bench in the 79th minute of the Belgian club’s 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. come out Lauren, of Brampton, Ont. The 27-year-old has not featured much for Brugge this season due to injury, but the fact he was able to get some minutes on Tuesday suggests he has turned a corner. Tajon Buchanan, another member of Canada’s World Cup squad, started and played the full 90 minutes for Brugge against Bayer Leverkusen.
Also on Tuesday, Edmonton native Alphonso Davies came on early in the second half and collected an assist in Bayern Munich’s 2-0 win over Inter Milan in Group C.
FC Porto, Club Brugge and Bayern Munich all advanced to the knockout stage, meaning the round of 16 will feature four members of Canada’s men’s team.
“Alfonso looks like he’s really enjoying his football this season, he seems to have a bit more freedom. … Stefan is scoring goals against big teams, he’s a midfielder at the top. is really growing in his profile,” Canadian coach John Herdman said on Wednesday.
Eintracht Frankfurt survives to fight another day
The final match in Group D has to be one of the most memorable in recent Champions League memory. Both spots for the knockout stage are still up for grabs and all four teams are still in contention with just two points separating first and fourth place.
Portuguese side Sporting looked bright after opening the scoring in the first half against Eintracht Frankfurt. The sport would have progressed with a draw and Frankfurt would have been eliminated. But the German team scored two goals in a span of 10 minutes in the second half on Tuesday and won 2-1 on Tuesday. In doing so it finished second in the group and advanced to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in its history.
Frankfurt finished the group stage with 10 points, the best performance of any side in their first appearance in the competition since Leicester City went 13 points clear in 2016-17. It’s a remarkable achievement for Frankfurt, who have gone from a mid-table German team to one of the biggest successes in Europe.
The German club beat Real Betis, FC Barcelona, West Ham United and Rangers back-to-back to win last season’s UEFA Europa League. They followed up wins against Olympique Marseille and Sporting in this season’s Champions League group stage, and they will enter the round of 16 as a side their opponents will be hoping to fend off.
Tottenham booked their place in the next round and topped Group D with a 2-1 win over Marseille. Spurs looked set to crash out of the tournament after trailing 1-0 at half-time. Making matters worse was the fact that manager Antonio Conte was serving a suspension in the stands and star striker Son Heung-min was taken off after 29 minutes with a head injury.
But the English side fought back bravely and equalized before Pierre-Emile Hodgeburg scored with the last kick of the game at the Stade Veldrom to seal victory for the London-based club.
John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found over here.