Champions League: Manchester United, Ajax advance

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Former European champions Manchester United, Ajax and Inter Milan have qualified for the group stage of the Champions League.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:48 IST
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Former European champions Manchester United, Ajax and Inter Milan have qualified for the group stage of the Champions League. United advanced 6-0 on aggregate over Hungarian champion Debrecen, while Ajax beat Danish club Brondby 5-3 overall. Inter Milan overcame Shakhtar Donestsk 3-1 after two legs in the third round of qualifying. Werder Bremen, Anderlecht, Rangers, FC Brugge and Villarreal 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. "You can't play soccer like this. It's unbelievable,'' Inter coach Roberto Mancini said. "The team was very tense having to play without fans. It's really absurd," he added. Defending champion Liverpool qualified on Tuesday despite losing 1-0 to visiting CSKA Sofia. Other clubs advancing were Panathinaikos, Rapid Vienna, Real Betis, Rosenborg and Udinese. 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. In Milan, Uruguay striker Alvaro Recoba put Inter ahead in the 13th minute with a low shot from the edge of the area. Brazilian midfielder Elano equalized for Shakhtar in the 24th. In Budapest, Hungary, Gabriel Heinze scored two goals and Kieran Richardson added another for Manchester United. Heinze headed in goals in the 20th and 61st minutes. Richardson made it 3-0 in the 65th with a strong shot from outside the penalty area. Neville injured Early in the match, United defender Gary Neville left the field with a groin tear and could be out for five weeks. United finished the match with 10 men when Richardson limped off with a knee injury after the team had already used all its three substitutes. Werder Bremen scored three goals in eight minutes to beat FC Basel 3-0 and erase a 2-1 loss in the first leg. Johan Michoud missed a penalty, but Tim Borowski converted another spot kick minutes later. Ivan Klasnic scored in the 64th and the 72nd minutes. Bremen was reduced to 10 men in the 79th when Germany striker Miroslav Klose picked up a second yellow card. Sneijder shines In Amsterdam, Wesley Sneijder scored twice in the second half to lead Ajax to a 3-1 win over Brondby. Johan Elmander opened the scoring for Brondby, but Ryan Babel leveled and Sneijder sealed the win. Anderlecht won 2-0 at Slavia Prague with second-half goals from Serhat Akin and Mbo Mpenza to advance 4-1 on aggregate. In Glasgow, Thomas Buffel and Dado Prso each scored a goal for Rangers in a 2-0 win over Anorthosis to advance 4-1 on aggregate. Brugge beat visiting Valerenga 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the two-leg series finished 1-1 on aggregate. Brugge goalkeeper Tomislav Butina saved two penalties and Croatia teammate Bosko Balaban scored the lone goal in regulation to give Brugge a 1-0 win in front of 20,000 fans at the Jan Breydel Stadium. (AP)

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