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UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals: First Leg Review

By UEFA Champions League (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By UEFA Champions League (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Emmanuel Rodriguez, Associate Sports Editor

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The calendar has struck its fourth month, which means the Champions League Final in Kiev, Ukraine is next month. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the first leg of the Quarterfinals commenced as Sevilla hosted Bayern Munich, Juventus hosted Real Madrid, Liverpool hosted Manchester City and Barcelona hosted Roma. All around, it was an incredible two days for European club soccer.

 

Bayern Munich 2, Sevilla 1

Sevilla came into this game after a disappointing draw in La Liga where they led Barcelona 2-0 at home, but goals in the 88th and 89th minute by Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi ruined Sevilla’s bid for a huge win at home, so everyone knew that Sevilla was going to come out angry. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich came off a 5-0 drubbing of Borussia Dortmund.

In Tuesday’s game at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville, it was the home team that controversially cracked first, surprising the world. It was Pablo Sarabia who put Sevilla up 1-0 after the 32nd minute. Sergio Escudero crossed the ball early towards the back post which found Sarabia’s left forearm and then his left foot to put it in the back of the net. Bayern’s players complained of the handball but the referee’s let the play go on and it was bedlam in Seville.

The lead wouldn’t last long though as Thomas Muller switched the play to find James Rodríguez who found Franck Ribéry. The Frenchman’s cross was deflected by Jesús Navas and past goalkeeper David Soria in the 37th minute to even the score as they went to break.

In the 68th minute, Ribéry found himself with a chance to make a difference. After another beautiful switch by the German squad, Ribéry crossed one to the back post that found the head of Thiago and bounced into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead that Bayern would not relinquish.

In the midst of the game, however, Chilean Arturo Vidal went down with a knee injury that had been lingering since Bayern’s last fixture on Saturday against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Look for the Colombian, James Rodríguez to start in place of Vidal if Vidal cannot continue this weekend or next week.

After conceding two away goals, it’s going to take a total team effort from Sevilla to be in the talks of the Champions League semifinals. All hope might be lost for the Spanish club as they head to Germany.

The second leg of Bayern Munich vs. Sevilla will take place at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

 

Real Madrid 3, Juventus 0

One of the biggest games this week was Real Madrid traveling to Turin, Italy to take on Juventus. Both teams came off wins last weekend as Real Madrid defeated Las Palmas 3-0 and Juventus defeated AC Milan, 3-1.

In a match that produced many scoring opportunities in a back and forth game, early on, it was Real Madrid and who else?

It was Cristiano Ronaldo putting Los Blancos on the board after three minutes. Marcelo and Isco played a two-man man game that ended up with Isco running down the wing and crossing the ball on the ground. Surely it was Karim Benzema, albeit marked, who was going to push the ball into the right direction, but Ronaldo showed his speed, getting open and pushed the ball past Gianluigi Buffon. It was Ronaldo’s quickest goal in his Champions League career.

Then, in the 64th minute, one of the most amazing sequences in Champions League history took place.

Marcelo saw Ronaldo making a run, but his elevated through ball wasn’t quite on target. Juventus centre-back Giorgio Chiellini had a miscommunication with fellow Italian Buffon and Chiellini touched the ball that was going to Buffon’s hands. The touch was long and Ronaldo, running at full speed, gets to the ball first while Buffon is caught scrambling back to the net to defend. Ronaldo passed the ball to an open Lucas Vázquez who took a one-time shot at the open net, but the 40-year old Buffon made an incredible diving save to parry the ball from harm’s way.

The ball ended up on the far side at the feet Dani Carvajal who crossed the ball to the middle of the box and Ronaldo, with no hesitation, rose up and timed a beautiful bicycle kick past Buffon to give Los Merengues a 2-0 lead.

The goal astounded everyone at Allianz Stadium and led to the Juventus fans giving Ronaldo a standing ovation for the incredible and acrobatic goal. Ronaldo thanked the fans for their applause. It’s a goal that will be remembered as one of the best plays in football history.

In the 72nd minute, Madrid put the icing on top of the cake as beautiful passing led to Cristiano at the top of the box passing it to Marcelo on the one-two pass. Marcelo flicked it towards the net which was deflected by Buffon but the ball landed at Marcelo’s feet again and he poked it in to give Real Madrid the 3-0 lead.

For La Juve, in the 66th minute, Dybala made a silly challenge on Carvajal in which Dybala’s spikes were exposed and hit Carvajal. Dybala, who was already booked, was shown a red card and was sent off.

In the 55th minute, although it seemed key with just a 1-0 lead, Sergio Ramos was shown a yellow and will miss the 2nd leg of the quarterfinals due to yellow card accumulation. Now that the aggregate reads 3-0, although surely missed, I’m not too sure Ramos’ absence will be key.

Just like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid is in very good shape to advance to the semifinals due to those away goals.

The second leg of Real Madrid vs Juventus from Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, Spain will kick off at 2:45 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

 

Liverpool 3, Manchester City 0

Wow. Both teams were coming off wins in the Premier League. Liverpool over Crystal Palace 2-1 and Manchester City defeated Everton 3-1 over the weekend.

Manchester City, however, might have been thinking of clinching the Premier League title on Saturday during the Manchester Derby because it was all Liverpool.

In the 12th minute, Mohamed Salah made a run and could’ve been called for an offside but the referees didn’t blow the whistle. The ball was passed perfectly to Salah who found Roberto Firmino. Firmino had to make a cut as a City defender was all over him and an awkward left-footed strike was parried by Manchester City’s goalkeeper and fellow Brazilian, Ederson. The ball was still in harm’s way through and at the feet of City’s Kyle Walker but Firmino snuck up from behind him and poked the ball right to the direction of Salah and the Egyptian’s left-footed cannon found twine for the 1-0 lead as Anfield went bezerk.

In the 20th minute, after a sequence that included City players fouling two Liverpool players, the referee let the play run and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found the ball at his feet, found an open lane to shoot and let one rip from outside the box past a diving Ederson to give The Reds a 2-0 lead. The Englishman’s right-footed strike was clocked in at 68mph before rattling in the back of the net.

In the 31st minute. Salah once again found a little room and tried to curl one in past Ederson but it was deflected by Vincent Kompany after great defending by Aymeric Laporte, but the ball ended at Salah’s feet again. Salah unselfishly then decided to refrain from shooting and lobbed one up to the edge of the six-yard box and Sadio Mané put his head on the ball sending past Ederson for the 3-0 lead.

Manchester City’s head will be everywhere since they will take on Manchester United at home on Saturday to clinch the Premier League, but they cannot party for too long if they win this weekend, because Pep Guardiola’s side needs to play perfectly next week to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

The second leg of Manchester City vs Liverpool from Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England will kick off at 2:45 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

 

Barcelona 4, Roma 1

Both teams are coming off draws in games they know they should’ve won.

Barcelona coming off that draw to Sevilla in La Liga while Roma drew 1-1 with Bologna in their last fixture in Serie A. Both teams needed to make a statement to get back into winning form.

It was a very even game until the 38th minute when Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi started to play a two-man game, passing the ball between them. Iniesta’s last attempt to get it to Messi was deflected by Roma’s Daniele De Rossi past Alisson to give Barcelona the 1-0 lead at the Nou Camp.

In the 55th minute, more bad luck for Roma. Messi and Ivan Rakitić played another two-man game and Rakitić was able to cross the ball into the six-yard box. Samuel Umtiti had to tap it in but it hit the post and deflected again off a Roma player into the back of the net. This time, it was Kostas Manolas who was credited with the own goal to give Blaugrana the 2-0 lead.

A few minutes later, on the counterattack went Barcelona. After Gerrard Piqué deflected a shot by Edin Džeko, the ball bounced to Sergio Busquets, who gave it to Sergi Roberto. Roberto started to make a run in space and then decided to give it to Messi and Messi continued the counterattack and with his head up and then poked it to Suárez, whose shot was parried out. But Piqué, who ran from his centre back position was in the perfect place at the right time as the ball landed at his feet and he tapped it in at the top of the six-yard box to give Barca a 3-0 lead.

In the 80th minute, things got interesting as Edin Džeko was able to bully his way around the smaller Jordi Alba and a perfect pass to his feet led to the Bosnian pushing one past Barcelona’s German goalkeeper, Marc André ter Stegen, for the all-important away goal. It was now a 3-1 lead for the home Barcelona.

But in the 87th minute, Barcelona got an insurance goal as Denis Suárez’s errant cross was not cleared by Roma’s defenders and it landed at the feet of Luis Suárez and his left-footed strike off the one-time got past Allison.

Roma getting an away goal was very key but allowing that fourth Barcelona goal put them in a much more difficult situation as now they’ll need to blank Barcelona 3-0 at home to move on. Had they not conceded that fourth goal, it would’ve been a much more manageable 2-0 win that would’ve been needed at home. Roma is in a tough situation now.

The second leg of Barcelona vs Roma from Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy will kick off at 2:45 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

I do feel that most of these results will repeat.

However, I think that Manchester City will come back and send Liverpool out of the Champions League, due to City’s form and past history with Liverpool squandering leads.

I believe we’ll see Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the 2017-18 Champions League semifinals. The draw for the Champions League semifinals will be on April 13 from FIFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland at 8 a.m. EDT. The games will be broadcasted on UEFA’s website.

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UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals: First Leg Review