Leipzig reaches Champions League knockout stage with 2-1 win at Red Star Belgrade


Xavi Simons of RasenBallsport Leipzig celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League match between FK Crvena zvezda and RB Leipzig at Stadion Rajko Mitic on November 7, 2023 in Belgrade, Serbia.

German team Leipzig reached the knockout stage of the Champions League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday.

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 in Group G, three behind Manchester City. Defending champion City beat Young Boys 3-0 in the other group game to also advance.

Leipzig pressured Red Star from the start with Benjamin Šeško, Openda and Xavi all running at the home team’s defense.

Xavi produced a moment of individual brilliance to open the scoring in the eighth minute, when he ran past one defender and curled an unstoppable shot inside the far post.

It was the 20-year-old Dutch player’s second Champions League goal.

Red Star coaching team member Nikola Todoric was sent off midway through the half after a verbal altercation with Openda.

Leipzig maintained its pressure and had 17 first-half efforts at goal – albeit only one of them on target.

“We should have scored more goals,” Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg said.

Openda should have made it 2-0 before the break, but goalkeeper Omri Glazer got down well to grab the ball and thwart the Belgian attacker, before Osman Bukari had the home team’s best chance saved by Janis Blaswich at the other end.

The home fans whistled their team at the interval.

Though Šeško hit the post for Leipzig, Red Star was much improved for the second half and Blaswich had to react again to deny substitutes Peter Olayinka and then Cherif Ndiaye.

Xaver Schlager then sent Openda through to score on a counterattack in the 77th.

The home team scored four minutes later when Leipzig defender Benjamin Henrichs got the final touch to Guélor Kanga’s cross, but Blaswich produced another save in a tense finale to preserve Leipzig’s win.

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