Copy of 2023-11-07T205013Z_1301584701_UP1EJB71LVNKU_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-CHAMPIONS-MCI-YBO-REPORT-1699461850415
Manchester City's Phil Foden celebrates scoring their second goal during a Champions League Group G match against BSC Young Boys at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, on Tuesday. Image Credit: Reuters

London: For European football veterans, it was a night to savour.

As Manchester City and Leipzig reached the knockout stage of the Champions League with two matches to spare on Tuesday, two emblematic players of Europe’s old guard grabbed the spotlight.

Already the oldest Champions League outfield player, veteran Porto defender Pepe became the oldest scorer in the Champions League history when he rose in the box and headed home his team’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Antwerp.

Pepe, who is 40 years, 254 days old, scored in stoppage time after Brazilian striker Evanilson put the hosts in front with a first-half goal.

“Today is a special day for me. It’s my mother’s birthday and I told her that I would do everything I could to score a goal,” Pepe said. “This feeling is incredible, because anyone who reaches this age playing at this level — representing a big club like Porto — knows it takes a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, a tremendous passion for this sport. I’ll try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

First win

The previous record was held by Roma’s Francesco Totti, who scored in Europe’s top club competition at age 38 years, 59 days in 2014.

Porto has nine points and moved level with leader Barcelona, which lost 1-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Group H’s other match. Last-place Antwerp can no longer finish as one of the top two teams.

At San Siro stadium, it was another veteran — Olivier Giroud — who was cheered by his teammates after AC Milan recorded its first win and first goals in this season’s Champions League to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1.

Aged 37 years, 38 days, Giroud became the oldest French goalscorer in the competition, overtaking Laurent Blanc.

Rafael Leao scored Milan’s other goal and the result left the Group F wide open. Milan came from behind after conceding a ninth-minute opener from Milan Skriniar. Borussia Dortmund beat Newcastle 2-0 in the other match and now leads the group. The German team is a point above PSG, two above Milan and three above Newcastle.

Perfect record

Manchester City kept its perfect record to advance from Group G with a 3-0 win against Young Boys. Erling Haaland scored two goals as City also extended its unbeaten home run in European soccer’s elite club tournament to 28 games. Phil Foden also netted.

German team Leipzig advanced with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Red Star Belgrade. Goals in either half from Xavi Simons and Loïs Openda ensured back-to-back victories for Leipzig over the Serbian champion, giving it nine points, three behind City. Both Red Star and Young Boys have one point and can no longer finish among the top two.

And in Group E, another experienced player was also on top of his game: 33-year-old Ciro Immobile scored his 200th goal with Lazio as the Roman club revived its hopes of advancing with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord.

The Lazio captain scored from a sharp angle after getting around the goalkeeper late in the first half at the Stadio Olimpico. Lazio moved into second place in Group E with seven points. Atletico Madrid tops the group with eight points after routing Celtic 6-0.

Dutch champion Feyenoord still has a chance in third with six points, while Celtic trails with one point.