United's Daren Fletcher fires home the first goal as his team move closer to the last 16. [AFP]
Tottenham Hotspur recorded one of the greatest results in their history as they overpowered defending champions Inter Milan 3-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring for Tottenham in the 18th minute before man-of-the-match Gareth Bale set up Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko for goals after the break, allowing Spurs to join Inter on seven points in Group A.
The 2009 winners Barcelona were made to wait before sealing qualification to the knockout stages after drawing 1-1 at FC Copenhagen.
Like Inter, Barca only needed a win to go through with two games to spare while Olympique Lyon's three-match winning streak came to a halt in an enthralling 4-3 defeat at Benfica in Group B.
England's Manchester United were the only group leaders who could not guarantee qualification this week but they took a big leap towards the first knockout round thanks to goals by Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe in a 3-0 win at Bursaspor.
Valencia prevailed 3-0 against Rangers to leapfrog their opponents into second in Group C.
Van der Vaart, suspended when Inter beat Spurs 4-3 two weeks ago, sent cheers around White Hart Lane in the return with a first-half goal after good work by Luca Modric but the Dutchman was substituted at the break with a nagging injury.
Peter Crouch made sure it was an unhappy return to England for his former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez when he slid in for the second on 61 minutes after Gareth Bale, hat-trick hero at the San Siro, again showed stunning speed to whip in the cross.
In-form Samuel Eto'o bagged his seventh goal of the group stage but Roman Pavlyuchenko converted another Bale pass a minute from time as Tottenham went top on head-to-head record.
"From the first to the last we played unbelievably," Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said.
"We pressed them, outworked them, outplayed them all night. It was an amazing performance from every one of them.
"We're in a good position now. It was a big game, playing Inter Milan at White Hart Lane, and everyone was here, all the Spurs fans can look back on it."
In the other group game, Dutch champions Twente Enschede boosted their slight hopes of progressing with a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen.
Barca's Lionel Messi cast his magic spell on the Champions League yet again with a well-taken opener on the half hour but a flap by Victor Valdes allowed Claudemir to level for Copenhagen just a minute later.
Lyon were blown away by Benfica's verve and Fabio Coentrao's brace before a spirited fightback from 4-0 down almost levelled matters but second-placed Schalke 04 could not take full advantage with a 0-0 stalemate at Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos played out a second straight 0-0 draw leaving both sides with an uphill task to qualify for the next round.
Rubin dominated their home game but failed to capitalise on numerous scoring opportunities.
The result leaves Rubin, who are yet to win a match, in third place in
Group D with three points from four games. Panathinaikos remain last with
two, and midfielder Costas Katsouranis admitted qualification for the
knockout round was unrealistic.
"It's more realistic to hope for third place in the group,'' Katsouranis
"There are no miracles in football. The rewards come from playing well
and sometimes a little bit of luck.''
Panathinaikos still have a home game against Barcelona and a trip to FC Copenhagen to come.