Liverpool, Ajax cruise into Champions League knockout rounds


Liverpool and Ajax extended their perfect winning records in the Champions League on Wednesday to advance into the round of 16 that’s starting to take a 1970s throwback look.

Liverpool cruised past Atlético Madrid 2-0 at Anfield and Ajax hit 10-man Borussia Dortmund with late goals in a 3-1 come-from-behind win in Germany.

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The four teams with four straight wins — after Bayern Munich and Juventus sealed their places Tuesday — have already given the knockout lineup a nostalgic feel. Ajax, Bayern and Liverpool combined to win all eight European Cup titles from 1971-78.

Liverpool had never opened a Champions League group stage with four wins, though it was rarely troubled against Atlético in Group B after Diogo Jota and Sadio Mané scored in the first 21 minutes. Atlético dropped to third in the group behind Porto, which was held to a 1-1 draw at last-place AC Milan.

Ajax is having a standout Champions League campaign after being ignored by the Super League founders from England, Italy and Spain when they lined up their ill-fated project several months ago.

The Netherlands champion made it back-to-back big wins over Dortmund, which had veteran defender Mats Hummels sent off in the first half.

Second-place Dortmund trails Ajax by six points in Group C with two rounds left. Dortmund is level on points with Sporting Lisbon, which routed Beşiktaş 4-0 and hosts the German side next on Nov. 24.

Real Madrid and Inter Milan — two of the 12 Super League clubs — have taken control of Group D from upstart Sheriff after important wins Wednesday.

Karim Benzema’s goals ensured Madrid beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 and lead the standings by two points from Inter. The Italian champion made it two straight wins over Sheriff, 3-1 away to the champion of Moldova.

Manchester City overpowered Club Brugge 4-1 and was rewarded with top spot in Group A after late drama at Leipzig where Paris Saint-Germain drew 2-2.

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A PSG team missing the injured Lionel Messi rallied from an early Leipzig surge to lead at halftime through two goals by Georgino Wijnaldum.

PSG dropped points after a stoppage-time penalty by Leipzig substitute Dominik Szoboszlai.

City took a one-point lead over PSG before they meet in Manchester in three weeks’ time.

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