We are down to four teams left in the Champions League now. While we won’t know what the match-ups are until the draw on Friday morning, we can take a look back now at the second legs. With 14 goals across the four games, there was a lot of action to see.
Games of the Round
We’ll start with Tuesday’s exciting and controversial match between Dortmund and Malaga. The first leg ended 0-0 in Spain, so it was all to play for in Germany. As with the first leg, Dortmund controlled the early part of the game. However, Malaga took a shock lead after 25 minutes which meant, seeing as it was an away goal, Dortmund would now need to win outright to go through. Dortmund, though rattled, regained control of the match shortly before halftime with a very well worked goal. Controversy would first rear it’s head shortly after the hour mark when Marcel Schmeltzer appeared to push Jesus Gamez in the face as he went by him. It would have been Schmetlzer’s second yellow card, but, amazingly, the referee decided to give a yellow card for Gamez, who in truth did react theatrically to the push. Malaga had appeared to win in controversial fashion when they went ahead in the 82nd minute. Replays suggest that the goal should have been disallowed for offside. Dortmund would be level in the 91st minute and would win the game in the 93rd, with the winning goal also appearing offside, twice even, in replays. Controversy, drama, late goals, and attacking play made this game an absolute beauty to watch for neutrals. If you wanted to introduce someone to this sport and have them get a feel for how much passion was involved, you could have done a lot worse than this game. You feel a bit for Malaga with this being their first ever appearance in the Champions League, but as the saying goes, “football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.” Dortmund 3, Malaga 2.
Barcelona hosted PSG in the other highly anticipated match for this round. After a 2-2 game in Paris in the first leg, this game was set up to be a thriller. Barcelona was seen as especially vulnerable, given that Lionel Messi was injured and did not start. Of course, Barcelona dominated possession of the ball, but PSG showed they were no pushovers. Both teams created some nice chances before half-time, but it went into the break at 0-0. Shortly after the restart, though, PSG took the lead. Zlatan Ibrahimovic haunted his former employer yet again, releasing Javier Pastore with a great through ball that he slotted past Victor Valdes. Barcelona, on the brink of exiting Europe, decided to gamble on Messi. Although he was clearly not at his best, he was good enough. He was involved in the equalizer, trying to play through David Villa before the ball rebounded out to Pedro who lashed it home. PSG created a few more chances, but were unable to find a second goal. Both sides had plenty of chances in another display of great teamplay, but it was Barcelona who was left to count their lucky starts to have survived this game. A great game, even if it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Barcelona 1, PSG 1, Barcelona advances on away goals.
Players of the Round
- Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the first 8 minutes for the second Champions League game running. He scored a second goal in stoppage time to bring his tally to 11 goals in 10 Champions League games this season, the most of any player in the competition. The Portuguese man has been in sensational form, doing his best to make everyone forget about his rival at Barcelona. Although Real Madrid lost that game 3-2, his two goals (three if we count the one from the first leg) meant Real Madrid cruised to a 5-3 aggregate win.
- Marco Reus scored Dortmund’s second goal in the 91st minute, lifting their spirits and leading the team to do their best impression of the 1999 Champions League final, where Manchester United famously scored two stoppage time goals to defeat Bayern Munich 2-1. Reus could have had a few goals across the two legs, and at times seemed to single-handedly be dragging Dortmund back into things.
- Mario Mandzukic scored for Bayern Munich to lead them to a 2-0 (4-0 on aggregate) victory over Juventus. While the Italians may have shown a little fight at times, Munich dominated most of this game. Mandzukic stretched the Juventus defense well, and was rewarded for his efforts with a goal.
- Adriano (Barcelona), Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), and Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid) are suspended for the first leg of their respective semi-final matches.
- Michael Essien (Real Madrid) had to go off injured in their 3-2 loss to Galatasaray. It appeared to be something wrong with his hamstring. Real Madrid could be lacking in their backline if he is unable to recover.
- The semifinals will see one of each of the first legs played on April 23 and 24, with the second legs coming on April 30 and May 1.