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UCL: Wild matches see Benfica, Red Star Belgrade through

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PSV Eindhoven made quick work of BATE Borisov on Wednesday to ensure its place in the UEFA Champions League group stage, but the day’s two other fixtures provided great drama, including a stomping incident and a horrific goalkeeping error.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s Carabao Cup roundup ]

Benfica routed PAOK, 4-1, en route to the group stage with a trio of first-half goals and a fourth just after halftime to advance.

PAOK goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis had a match to forget though, handing Benfica its second goal with a horrible mistake by keeping the ball in play and then conceding a penalty kick (below)

Eduardo Salvio’s brace helped Benfica on to the 6-2 aggregate victory.

Meanwhile, Red Star Belgrade knocked off Red Bull Salzburg, 2-2, by virtue of El Fardou Ben’s two away goals on the day.

Marin Pongracic was the target of a contentious incident in the second half though, after jumping and stomping on a Red Star player that was down with after a collision (below).

Wednesday’s UCL results

PSV Eindhoven 3-0 (6-2 on agg.) BATE Borisov
PAOK 1-4 (2-5 on agg.) Benfica
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Red Star Belgrade

UCL playoff preview: Ajax, Benfica, PSV looking for group stage spot

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The Champions League is nearly back to the apex of its competition, as the final playoff round gets set for its finale and the group stage looks for its final participants. There are only six spaces left among the group stage participants, and some big-name clubs will take the field for their matchup’s second leg.

Dutch giants Ajax are in a solid position, up 3-1 over Dynamo Kiev after the home leg and now hit the road to Ukraine hoping to wrap things up on Tuesday. They have been scoring at will of late, coming off a 5-0 demolition of Eredivisie minnows FC Emmen. They have scored 20 goals over their last eight matches across all competitions, with 35-year-old Klass-Jan Huntelaar owning six of those and former Southampton man Dusan Tadic owning five.

[ MORE: 7 young players who could earn England debut ]

Kiev, meanwhile, has been quite the opposite. Through five matches in Ukranian Premier League play, Kiev has scored just five goals, but has conceded just one, sitting third in the league table with 13 points, although they have a game in hand on those above them and remain the only unbeaten team remaining in league play.

Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb and Swiss champs Young Boys are both level at 1-1 heading to the second leg in Zagreb. The home side will hope for a better start than in the first leg, when Young Boys grabbed the opener just two minutes into the match.

Also on Tuesday, Greek side AEK Athens takes a 2-1 lead back home over Hungarian club MOL Vidi.

On Wednesday, another Dutch club looks to seal up a lead, as PSV Eindhoven returns home with a 3-2 advantage over Belarusian club BATE Borisov in tow. They led 2-1 late in the first leg, and the game finished wildly as BATE equalized in the 88th minute before PSV retook the lead just a minute later. The three away goals are all massive, as is coming home with a lead of any kind. PSV has participated in the Champions League group stage in two of the last three seasons, reaching the knockout stage in 2015/16.

Portuguese giants Benfica sit in a precarious position, heading out on the road to visit Greek side PAOK with that matchup level at 1-1. Benfica held a lead on a goal just before halftime, but they conceded a scrappy away goal in the 76th minute on a set-piece.

Finally, Red Bull Salzburg hosts Red Star Belgrade after a 0-0 first leg in Serbia.

Porto stunned by Guimaraes, Benfica draws 1-1 with Sporting

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) FC Porto squandered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 home loss to Guimaraes on Saturday, while Benfica needed a late goal by 18-year-old Joao Felix to draw 1-1 with Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese capital derby.

Defending champion Porto appeared to have the game well in hand after Yacine Brahimi and Andre Pereira both scored before halftime.

But Andre Andre converted a penalty in the 63rd minute and substitute Antonio Carvalho leveled in the 76th.

Substitute Davidson completed the comeback for the visitors with a goal in the 88th, dealing Porto its first loss in three rounds this season.

“We are not doing the things that made us champion,” said Porto coach Sergio Conceicao. “We need to talk.”

Porto’s second goal was scored with Pereira in an off-side position, but the video assistant referee apparently did not advise the referee due to a technical malfunction in the communication system.

“There needs to be an alternative to communicate,” Guimaraes coach Luis Castro said. “If the VAR goes down, there must be another option. A team could be hurt by this.”

In Lisbon, Joao Felix jumped to head in a cross from Rafa Silva to score for Benfica in the 86th minute, cancelling out a penalty converted by Sporting’s Nani in the 64th.

Goalkeeper Romain Salin made several saves to keep Sporting ahead until Felix finally got a ball past him.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Champions League wrap: PAOK, PSV have big away days

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Liverpool still has hope of joining Pot 2 in this season’s UEFA Champions League, as big time underdogs PAOK Salonika picked up a valuable away goal and 1-1 draw at Benfica in the first leg of their UCL playoff round tie.

[ WATCH: Lichaj assists for Hull ]

The Reds will provide the possibility of a horror group if Benfica wins, which was widely expected, moving Liverpool from Pot 2 to 3 and leaving open the possibility of a group like Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and Inter Milan.

The second legs are Aug. 29, while three more ties begin Wednesday.

Here’s what happened Tuesday in Belarus, Portugal, and Serbia.

Benfica 1-1 PAOK Salonika

PAOK is the bookies’ biggest underdog in the round, and Pizzi’s first half stoppage time penalty had things looking like business as usual in Portugal.

But Egyptian winger Amr Warda found Sebastian Varela’s shot off the cross bar and deposited the rebound to give PAOK the upper hand heading back to Greece.

BATE Borisov 2-3 PSV Eindhoven

Goals for each side inside of the final three minutes at Borisov Arena in Belarus provided a thrilling ending, but may take a lot of the luster off the second leg in the Netherlands.

PSV led 2-1 on goals from Gaston Pereiro and¬†El Tri star Hirving Lozano, when 37-year-old Alexander Hleb — yes, the former Arsenal and Barcelona man — scored an 88th minute equalizer. A minute later, Donyell Malin scored to put the Dutch side back on top.

Red Star Belgrade 0-0 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors had a lot of the ball, but shots were even as the tie leaves Serbia without a goal.

Champions League preview: Liverpool’s fate rests on Benfica-PAOK

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Four Premier League clubs will know who they could face in the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League following the playoff round, which begins Tuesday with a trio of matches.

The most interesting tie of the bunch is Benfica against PAOK Salonika, starting Tuesday in Portugal.

[ MORE: Wenger speaks on future ]

PAOK is the biggest underdog in the playoff round, but Liverpool fans will be rooting hard for Razvan Lucescu’s Greek side. That’s because the Reds will joining Pot 2 of the UEFA Champions League draw if Benfica exits the tournament.

Frankly, many of the European hot shots would prefer Liverpool exit Pot 3. As it stands, the much-improved Reds would be a part of a horror group.

As it stands, these are the pots:

Pot 1: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Man City, Lokomotiv Moscow

Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli, Spurs, Roma

Pot 2 or 3: Liverpool

Pot 3: Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, CSKA Moscow

Pot 3 or 4: Valencia, Viktoria Plzen

Pot 4: Club Brugge, Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, Galatasaray

Of course, Liverpool could be a Pot 3 team and be the best club in its group should Lokomotiv Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Club Brugge join them.

But it’s also possible that you could get the Reds in a group with Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan. Yikes.

So look for most non-English Pot 1 and 2 teams to want Benfica to fall victim to Pontus Wernbloom, Chuba Akpom, and Vieirinha’s PAOK.

Playoff round schedule
All times ET

BATE Borisov vs. PSV Eindhoven
3 p.m. Tuesday in Belarus
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in the Netherlands

Benfica vs. PAOK Salonika
3 p.m. Tuesday in Portugal
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Greece

Red Star Belgrade vs. Red Bull Salzburg
3 p.m. Tuesday in Serbia
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Austria

Young Boys vs. Dinamo Zagreb
3 p.m. Wednesday in Switzerland
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Croatia

MOL Vidi (Videoton) vs. AEK Athens
3 p.m. Wednesday in Hungary
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Greece

Ajax vs. Dynamo Kyiv
3 p.m. Wednesday in the Netherlands
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Ukraine