The first legs of the Champions League quarterfinals are complete, so it’s time to reflect on the past two days. With the return legs coming next week, things have set up for some pretty good matchups.
Games of the Round
The best game of the round was Paris Saint-Germain’s dramatic 2-2 draw with Barcelona at the Parc des Princes in Paris. This was a great game to watch from start to finish. Barcelona had the lion’s share of possession, as they do in most games they play in, but PSG did not just sit back and take it. The French side had as many shots on target as the mighty Catalans did. In fact, PSG was unlucky not to be ahead before even five minutes had passed when Ezequiel Lavezzi broke through the Barca defense. Sergio Busquets cleared the ball away as far as his own post was fortunate that he didn’t score an own goal. Of course it was Messi who broke the deadlock, scoring a nice goal after a fantastic ball in from Dani Alves. Former Barcelona man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who originally had been suspended for this game, scored the equalizer from an offside position in what can only be described as a missed call by the German officiating team. Things went back and forth, but it looked like PSG would escape with a draw when, to their horror, goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu conceded a penalty in the 89th minute. The drama didn’t end there, though, with Blaise Matuidi sending Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes the wrong way deep into stoppage time to bring things level again.
The other exciting game to watch was Real Madrid’s 3-0 thumping of Galatasaray. While the scoreline is one sided, the game was anything but. Both teams carved out good chances and shared the ball about evenly throughout the 90 minutes. It was, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo who opened the scoring for Madrid, lofting the ball over an out-rushing Fernando Muslera. Karim Benzema would add a second in the 29th minute when he slotted home from a short distance out. His replacement, Gonzalo Higuain, would also find the net after being on the pitch for only eight minutes. This game showed good attacking soccer throughout and could have easily ended differently, in particular with a few penalty shouts that the Turkish side will feel they should have been awarded. On another night, Galatasaray could have so easily walked away with a result. Instead, the Turks find themselves on the end of a 3-0 deficit. Since 70/71 in Europe, a team winning 3-0 at home has qualified on 311 of 333 attempts.
Players of the Round
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic originally was going to be suspended for this match but ended up being a terror for his former employers. The ex-Barcelona man was potent in attack. Even though his goal shouldn’t have counted, it did, and have provided the assist on the second as well. His height in particular made him dangerous against Barcelona’s shorter back line. Ibra, as he’s known, had an excellent game, and reminded everyone who watched why Barcelona picked him up in the first place in 2009.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, is another player in fine form at the moment. He scored his 9th goal in 9 Champions League appearances this year. While in the past he has been criticized for not showing up for big games, he has been outstanding this season. The Portugese wizard took 7 shots this game and was constantly threatening to add a second goal to his name.
- Malaga have goalkeeper Willy Caballero to thank for being level at 0-0 when they head to Germany. The Argentine goalkeeper was absolutely fantastic, denying Mario Gotze and Marco Reus throughout the night. In truth, Dortmund could have done better with a few of their chances, but Caballero looked like he was eight feet tall out there at times. While Malaga will still face an uphill battle, they didn’t give up an away goal thanks to his fine performance.
- Lionel Messi came off injured at halftime in Barcelona’s 2-2 draw with PSG. He will for sure miss this weekend’s match with Mallorca, but could be good to go for the second leg. The doctor’s will reassess him after the Mallorca game. Javier Mascherano (Barcelona) was also injured in the game and will be out for around six weeks. Blaise Matuidi (PSG) will be suspended after picking up another yellow card in the first leg.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner (Bayern Munich) and Arturo Vidal (Juventus) will be suspended for the second leg of their match up. Bayern Munich has a 2-0 lead in that tie.
- Malaga captain Weligton and Manuel Iturra both received cautions in their 0-0 draw with Dortmund, ruling them out of the second leg.
- Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray), along with Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), will likewise miss out on the return leg of their games. Alonso and Ramos appeared to intentionally seek out the cards to serve their suspension now, with a 3-0 lead, rather than risk picking one up in a semi-final. Madrid has been punished for this tactic before, so the possibility of an extra ban for the players and/or manager Jose Mourinho looms.