By Mike Collett
Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris St Germain reached the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday while Juventus, Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk boosted their chances of joining them in the knockout stages.
Holders Bayern Munich, already assured of their place before Wednesday’s matches, set a Champions League record of 10 successive wins with a 3-1 victory at wintry CSKA Moscow.
Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive player, opened the scoring with a free kick in a 4-1 triumph over Galatasaray that ensured record nine-time European champions Real would win Group B.
The only blot for the Spanish club was the first-half dismissal of defender Sergio Ramos.
Juventus moved from bottom spot to second in the same group with a 3-1 win over FC Copenhagen in Turin, Arturo Vidal scoring a hat-trick that included two penalties.
United crushed Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in Germany in a winner-takes-all match.
The Premier League champions totally dominated with Ryan Giggs, two days before his 40th birthday, giving a hugely impressive performance as Leverkusen slipped from second to third due to Shakhtar’s 4-0 victory over bottom club Real Sociedad.
Shakhtar face United away in their last game on December 10 while Leverkusen visit Sociedad.
Leverkusen can still qualify if they beat Sociedad and Shakhtar fail to defeat United at Old Trafford.
Paris St Germain also made it through by beating Olympiakos Piraeus 2-1 in France after Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave them the lead with an early goal on his 100th Champions League appearance.
While PSG were securing top spot in Group C, Benfica improved their chances in the same section with a late winner in a 3-2 victory at Anderlecht.
Manchester City, who like Bayern had qualified before Wednesday’s games, beat Viktoria Plzen 4-2 thanks to two late goals from Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko.
Plzen had twice levelled on a night that produced 36 goals in the eight games.