PSG, Schalke win groups; Ronaldo scores Champions League best sixth goal
GENEVA — Paris Saint-Germain and Schalke sealed top spot in their Champions League groups on Tuesday, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored his tournament-leading sixth goal to help Real Madrid beat Ajax 4-1.
A 17-minute snow delay during the Dinamo Zagreb-Dynamo Kyiv match offered something unexpected on a night when all places in the last 16 were decided before kickoff.
Kaka also scored for Madrid, but Borussia Dortmund had the group won before beating winless Manchester City 1-0 and will be seeded in the Dec. 20 draw.
PSG beat pre-match leader FC Porto 2-1 to top Group A. Last-place Zagreb collected its first goal and first point of the campaign in a 1-1 draw with Kyiv.
Arsenal lost 2-1 at Olympiakos, allowing Schalke to be No. 1 in Group B despite drawing 1-1 with Montpellier.
Malaga had already clinched Group C before drawing 2-2 with Anderlecht, and second-place AC Milan lost 1-0 at home to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Madrid and Milan shape as dangerous unseeded teams in a well-balanced knockout stage. Teams cannot be paired with anyone from their home country, or an opponent already faced in the groups.
“Come February we will likely have to play against a difficult team that came top of its table and probably thought it would get an easy rival,” Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said.
Ajax and Zenit join Kyiv and Olympiakos as the third-place teams entering the last 32 of the Europa League. That draw is also made Dec. 20.
Ronaldo finished an excellent attack in the 13th minute that was started by Luka Modric’s strong tackle in his own half and long diagonal pass to send Karim Benzema clear of the Ajax offside trap.
The Portugal winger’s goal-a-game ratio in the group stage takes him clear of Lionel Messi, Burak Yilmaz and Alan, who each have five goals but could all play on Wednesday.
Modric set up Jose Callejon for the first of his two goals in the 28th. Callejon added a header in the 88th from Alvaro Morata’s cross.
In between, Kaka curled in a perfectly placed left-foot shot from 25 metres (yards) in the 49th to give Madrid a 3-0 lead.
Ajax scored in the 59th when Derk Boerrigter volleyed into an unguarded net after backup goalkeeper Antonio Adan had weakly punched the ball out of his penalty area.
Dortmund, which was drawn into the toughest pool as the lowest-ranked team, sealed its deserved group win against the underachieving English champions. Julian Schieber scored in the 57th, sliding between defenders to connect with Jakub Blaszczykowski’s pass at the far post.
“I think we’ve earned some respect now,” Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said. “I didn’t necessarily think that we would end the group with 14 points.”
Man City exit with just three points, the worst return from an English team in any Champions League group.
Another big spender, PSG, is under pressure in the French league but justified some of the massive outlay by its Qatari owners with a tournament-best fifth win thanks to two off-season signings from Italian clubs.
Brazilian defender Thiago Silva, formerly of Milan, headed the Paris side ahead in the 29th, and ex-Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi scored a fortunate goal when his shot slipped through goalkeeper Helton’s grasp in the 61st. Jackson Martinez headed Porto level in the 33rd.
“It was a good performance from us and we needed it to get the quality, attitude and spirit of the team back,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said.