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 Wednesday, October 23, 2002 18:56 EST

Bayern Munich barely alive after another loss


LONDON -- Manchester United, AC Milan and Barcelona eased into the second phase of the Champions League on Wednesday while 2001 winners Bayern Munich, quarterfinalists in its previous six campaigns, is clinging on by its fingertips after another defeat.

Goals by midfielder Serginho and striker Filippo Inzaghi, his 10th in Europe this season, gave Milan a 2-1 San Siro win and a superb double over Bayern in Group G to move to 12 points.

The Germans remain on one point but are not yet out thanks to RC Lens' surprise 3-1 win over Deportivo Coruna. Deportivo has six points with Lens on four.

Frank de Boer's 76th minute goal was enough for Barcelona to beat Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0 in the Nou Camp, the club's fourth win in Group H. Club Bruges beat Galatasaray 3-1 to leapfrog its victims into second place on five points to the Turks' four.

Manchester United, champions in 1999, also have a maximum 12 points thanks to a 3-2 away win over Olympiakos Piraeus in Group F, although they needed a late Paul Scholes goal after throwing away a 2-0 lead.

Last year's runner-up Bayer Leverkusen continued its recovery with a second successive victory over Maccabi Haifa, 2-1 this time, to go second behind United on six points.

The German fans were unimpressed, booing their team after an uninspiring display that was settled by goals for Marko Babic and Juan either side of Nenad Pralija's 53rd minute goal for the Israelis.

Olympiakos and Maccabi both have three points and remain in contention.

Juventus saw its lead in Group E wiped out as the club lost 1-0 at Newcastle United after defender Andy Griffin got the English club's first goal and first points of the competition.

Juve remains on seven points along with Dynamo Kiev, 2-0 home winners over Feyenoord. The Dutch have five points with Newcastle on three.

Group G always looked as if it would be the tightest of the first phase but Milan has stormed through.

The new Serie A leaders went ahead in the 11th minute through Serginho, defender Michael Ternat equalizing 12 minutes later.

Bayern, playing at the stadium where it lifted the trophy two seasons ago, then made most of the running before it was caught out by the prolific Inzaghi in the 64th minute.

For Bayern to get through the club now needs to beat Deportivo away and Lens in Germany and hope Milan beats both.

Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld refused to admit his side was out but accepted Franz Beckenbauer's pronouncement that the club needed "something close to a miracle".

"But we still have a chance and we will give everything we can," said Hitzfeld.

"Our position in the group is certainly not equal to our performances. We have lost twice to Milan and to Deportivo but we had a lot of chances in those games and we played much better tonight."

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted he was surprised to have qualified from such a tough group with two games to spare.

"No one expected that in a group like this," he said. "But we have done some great work since we got together on July 1 and it has gone well in both Europe and the league."

Deportivo would have also been through with a win and looked on course to get it when it took an early lead at Lens through striker Roy Makaay.

However, three second-half goals by Adama Coulibaly, Daniel Moreira and Olivier Thomert turned the match round and earned the Frenchmen their first victory of the campaign.

Manchester United were cruising in Athens after shots by central defender Laurent Blanc and midfielder Juan Veron had them 2-0 up after an hour.

Manager Alex Ferguson felt comfortable enough to take off David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, only to see Olympiakos quickly draw level with goals by Lampros Choutos and Predrag Djordvevic.

Midfielder Scholes spared his manager's blushes with a stinging winner six minutes from time.

"I thought we were superb until that period when we lost the two goals," said Ferguson. "It was a bit careless of us really."

Barcelona manager Luis van Gaal refused to criticize his players after their lackluster display against Lokomotiv.

"We deserved to win and there are not a lot of sides who can say they have won all their games in the Champions League," said the Dutchman.

On Tuesday, defending champions Real Madrid and Valencia gave away late equalizers to draw 2-2 with AEK Athens and Basel respectively while Arsenal surprisingly lost 2-1 at home to Auxerre.

They all missed the opportunity of guaranteeing a place in the second phase. The penultimate round of first phase matches takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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