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 Wednesday, October 30, 2002 19:07 EST

Valencia edges Liverpool to move into next round


LONDON -- Holders Real Madrid and English champions Arsenal both lost on Wednesday but still qualified for the second phase of the Champions League.

AS Roma's Francesco Totti got the only goal after 27 minutes in the Group C match in Madrid as Real lost at home to Italian opposition for the first time since 1967, but whatever happens in the final round of matches, the club is guaranteed a top two spot.

Borussia Dortmund sent Arsenal crashing to its fourth successive 2-1 defeat in all competitions in a tense Group A match.

Both teams advanced, however, after nine-man AJ Auxerre, who had to win to keep its chances alive, was thumped 3-0 by PSV Eindhoven.

Auxerre's hopes disappeared with red cards for Philippe Mexes in the 26th minute and Olivier Kapo in the 51st.

Valencia completed an impressive double over Liverpool as Francisco Rufete's deflected shot gave the club a 1-0 win at Anfield to book its place as Group B winners.

The other Group B game between Spartak Moscow and Basel was postponed until next Tuesday as a mark of respect for the victims of the Moscow theater siege.

Group D remains wide open after Inter Milan beat Rosenborg Trondheim 3-0 and Ajax Amsterdam won 2-0 in a controversial game at Olympique Lyon.

Inter and Ajax, who meet in their final game, have eight points with Lyon, who visits Rosenborg, on seven.

Real Madrid seemed ready for another effortless cruise into the second phase when the club won its first three matches, starting with a superb 3-0 win at Roma, and was then 2-0 up at home against AEK Athens in its fourth.

But the team drew 2-2 with the Greeks and, after some mediocre domestic form, was unable to cancel out Totti's early goal at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque said he had mixed feelings about the match, and although disappointed at the defeat he was pleased that his squad had still secured its place in the second phase of the competition.

"We can't be satisfied with the result," he said. "But on the other hand we have qualified and that is something that Roma have yet to do.

Del Bosque said his side had found it difficult to break down Roma's defense, but was quick to dismiss any suggestions of a crisis at Real who has managed only one win in its last seven domestic and European games.

"I am not one for excuses, but Raul, Luis Figo and Ronaldo are all playing after time off injured and we are still waiting for them to find that understanding they will get from playing together."

"We certainly aren't as badly off as our recent results may suggest and any talk of a crisis is a massive exaggeration," he added. "A crisis is what Bayern are facing after being knocked out of European competition."

In the group's other game Genk scored its first goal in the competition, Wesley Sonck's effort 22 minutes into its fifth match, Vassilis Lakis earned AEK a 1-1 draw.

If AEK manages to win in Rome in its final match, and Real loses at already-eliminated Genk, all three would end up on eight points.

But Real's superior head-to-head record against the other two ensures the club will go through whatever the scores next month. Roma needs only draw to go through.

Arsenal is torn between lamenting a fourth successive 2-1 defeat -- all after an unbeaten run of 30 matches -- and celebrating its progress into the second round.

Things started well for the Londoners in Dortmund when Thierry Henry curled an 18th-minute free kick past the static Jens Lehmann but Gilberto Silva deflected a Tomas Rosicky free kick into his own goal to level the scores.

Rosicky struck Dortmund's winner from the penalty spot in the 62nd minutes after David Seaman had brought down Czech striker Jan Koller.

"It was a good dive from people accusing us of diving. It was a good return," said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, in reference to stories carried in English newspapers ahead of the game.

Valencia was within seconds of going through last week but after being frustrated by Basel's last-minute equalizer, the team made sure at Anfield.

Looking sharp from the start and defensively determined, the losing finalists in 2000 and 2001 handed the premier league leaders their first home defeat in all competitions this season.

Valencia has 13 points with Liverpool on seven. Basel, with two games remaining against Spartak away and Liverpool at home, has five, setting up an interesting last match in Switzerland.

Ajax took an eighth minute lead through South African midfielder Steven Pienaar in Lyon -- the club's first away goal in the competition since April 1997 -- but the French side thought it had equalized when a Sonny Anderson header was palmed into his own net by goalkeeper Joey Didulica after 43 minutes.

TV replays showed that the ball had crossed the line but Greek referee Kyros Vassaras ruled otherwise.

Ajax captain Cristian Chivu was sent off midway through he second half but the Dutch secured the points with a goal by substitute Rafael Van Der Vaart in injury time.

Alvaro Recoba, Hernan Crespo and an own goal by Janne Saarinen gave Inter a comfortable 3-0 home success that ensured Rosenborg will finish bottom of Group D.

The final round of fixtures for groups A-D takes place on Tuesday, November 12.

On Tuesday, Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen joined already-qualified Barcelona, Manchester United and AC Milan in the second phase.

Bayern Munich, European champions just 17 months ago, lost at Deportivo Coruna and will finish fourth in its group, not even qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

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