Last season’s beaten semifinalists Ajax were the big casualties from the Champions League group stage as the Dutch champions crashed out following their 1-0 defeat at home to Valencia.
Rodrigo scored the game’s only goal in the 24th minute to eliminate Ajax, who were the fairytale story of last season’s competition with their giant-slaying run from the early preliminary rounds to the semi-final. They had needed only to draw their last group game to advance to the last-16 but looked flat and listless in going down to the Spanish side, who ended with 10 men after the sending off of Gabriel Paulista in stoppage time, and now drop down to the Europa League after finishing third.
Rodrigo buried the ball into the top right-hand corner after being teed up by a clever dummy from Ferran Torres, who first feinted to shoot before passing.
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund beat Slavia Prague 2-1 with goals from Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt to advance to the Champions League knockout stage, leaving Internazionale in third place in Group F.
The win put the Germans, who also had keeper Roman Buerki to thank with more than half a dozen sensational saves, on 10 points in second place, three ahead of Inter who lost 2-1 to already-qualified group winners Barcelona. At just 17 years and 40 days, Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in Champions League history when he found the net with five minutes to play.
Sancho put the hosts ahead in the 10th and Dortmund could have added at least two more when Marco Reus twice had only keeper Ondrej Kolar to beat but was denied on both occasions.
A late comeback from Lyon saw the French side sneak through in Group G. Memphis Depay found the back of the net eight minutes from time after Hassem Aouar’s superb second-half goal had reduced the deficit against RB Leipzig.
Benfica will play in the Europa League knockout phase after finishing ahead of Zenit St Petersburg thanks to a better head-to-head record following a 3-0 home win against the Russian side.