After the highly intense and some highly influenced clashes in the quarterfinal stage of the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s elite club competition, we have the semi finalists consisting of Madrid rivals Real and Atletico, the Italian super boys Juventus, and a surprising entry among the four qualified- AS Monaco.
The first leg of the quarterfinals began on a very bad note as the clash between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco had to be suspended due to an explosion that left defender Marc Bartra injured. But a good gesture by the Monaco supporters inside the Signal Iduna Park, plus the Dortmund fans providing accommodation to the away team fans showed why football will always win over terrorism or any event of such sort.
The match was played on the next day with a missed penalty from Mbappe, but a brace later enabled Monaco to register a 3-2 victory over Dortmund.
The second leg in Monaco enabled Leonardo Jardim to shift things into the upper gear with goals coming in both halves securing a semifinal spot with an aggregate score of 5-2 over the German giants.
The second quarterfinal saw last season’s runners up Atletico Madrid lock horns with the surprise English champions, Leicester City.
Antoine Greizmann’s penalty was enough for the Madrid side to win the first leg, but it was a tough task for Diego Simeone and his men to play at the King Power stadium, which has turned into a dangerous ground since Claudio Ranieri’s sacking just nine months after leading Leicester to their fairytale Premier League title.
Having said that, Atletico took the lead in the first half though Saul’s strike; but Jamie Vardy equalised in the second half to stay in the hunt. Unfortunately Atletico’s defence was too strong for Vardy, Mahrez, Ulloa, Okazaki and Albrighton to penetrate into the final third.
The aggregate score read 3-2 in favour of Atletico ensuring a semifinal spot for the third time in the last four seasons.
One of the two super heavyweight clashes include the controversial clash between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
The first leg at Allianz Arena saw some controversial decisions leading to a penalty(which was not the right decision) taken and horribly missed by Arturo Vidal. Messi and Simone Zaza would have felt proud after looking at his shot.
Manuel Neuer conceded two goals in a shock 1-2 loss to the Galacticos, but was still awarded the man of the match for his superhuman performance with incredible saves.A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo enabled him to reach a milestone of 100 UCL goals in total.
What followed next in Madrid was absolutely chaotic.
Bayern were 1-0 up thanks to a penalty from Robert Lewandowski who was back from injury, a header from Cristiano made it 1-1 in the tie; and a deflection from Sergio Ramos enabled Bayern to level the aggregate score to an impressive 3-3.
An unbelievable linesman error enabled the defending champions score an offside goal through Cristiano’s header , whereas the Portuguese was offside in scoring his second, and Real’s second goal in extra time.
A controversial red card given to Arturo Vidal for what was a clean tackle reduced the Bavarian giants to ten men.
Ronaldo’s hattrick and a goal from Asensio took this encounter beyond any doubt. Carlo Ancelotti was infuriated at the referee’s decisions, which were crucial in the final outcome. But what’s done that’s done.
The fourth quarterfinal which finished last in the fixtures list was the Spanish vs the Italians at the Juventus stadium in Turin where the Bianconeri absolutely outclassed Barcelona 3-0. The referees seem to have got the fixtures wrong though. If there had to be any referee influence it had to be with Barcelona, not Real Madrid !
It was a repeat of the 2015 final; Paulo Dybala came up with a sensational performance with Giorgio Chiellini’s header made sure Juventus go to Camp Nou with a healthy advantage. There were moments of magic in the game with Messi’s through balls to Iniesta and Messi creating chances himself, but the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon was to the rescue making some sensational saves.
Barcelona might have thought that they could overturn the deficit like they did in the Round of 16 against PSG with a magnificent scoreline of 6-1 after losing to the French club 4-0 in Paris. But this time the challenge was extremely difficult with the likes of ex Catalan regular Dani Alves in the black and white kit.
The tactical genius and the gameplay of Massimiliano Allegri was simply outstanding to watch. The art of defending was perfectly exhibited by the likes of Chiellini, Bonucci and Rugani with Dani Alves . It was not just defending that Juventus did throughout the game. In the second leg Cuadrado and Higuain came close to scoring two crucial away goals sealing the tie there itself.
Juve are yet to concede a single goal in 500 minutes, the longest clean sheet run in this season. So their opponent is going to have a really really tough time to score a goal past the Italian defence and of course, Gigi Buffon.
Hope the semifinal clashes will be fair and a treat to watch.