Man Utd, Ajax, Inter advance
London, August 25:
Former European champions Manchester United, Ajax and Inter Milan qualified for the group stage of the Champions League.
United advanced 6-0 on aggregate over Hungarian champion Debrecen, Ajax beat Danish club Brondby 5-3 overall, and Inter Milan overcame Shakhtar Donestsk 3-1 after two legs in the third round of qualifying.
Werder Bremen, Anderlecht, Rangers and FC Brugge also qualified. Inter drew 1-1 with Shakhtar in an empty San Siro stadium, the first of a four-match spectator ban in European matches. The punishment stemmed from last season’s quarterfinal against city rival AC Milan, which was abandoned when Milan goalkeeper Dida was hit by a flare thrown from the stands.
Defending champion Liverpool qualified despite losing 1-0 to visiting CSKA Sofia. Other clubs advancing were Panathinaikos, Rapid Vienna, Real Betis, Rosenborg and Udinese. Swiss team Thun and Slovakia’s Artmedia Bratislava were surprise first-time qualifiers for the group stage.
Among the 16 teams already in Thursday’s group stage draw in Monte Carlo are Real Madrid, AC Milan, FC Barcelona, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal and Bayern Munich.