Thursday, April 7, 2016

Champions League Quarterfinal 1st Leg Review

All Spanish clash in Barcelona, Bayern battle Benfica at the Allianz, PSG and Man City draw in a thriller, and Wolfsburg stuns the football world

The Champions League Round of 8 kicked off on Tuesday with the headliner match of the round, and another battle that isn't as big, but can produce a thrilling match. Simeone's Atletico Madrid traveled to Barcelona to challenge MSN, while Portuguese Club Benfica tried their luck against German giants Bayern Munich. On Wednesday, Manchester City travelled to Paris to take down mighty PSG, while Wolfsburg tried to do the impossible at home agains Real Madrid.

FC Barcelona (Spain) v. Atletico Madrid (Spain) (Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain)

When this matchup was drawn, eyebrows raised. Two Spanish and European giants clash on Europe's biggest stage. The first leg was held in Barcelona, and as expected the grit and toughness of the game was evident. The two Spanish rivals did battle in the first 20 minutes, bodes flying, challenges going in, and much more physicality. The battle looked to be destined for a stalemate until the 25' minute when El Nino, Fernando Torres, dug into the archives, recovered some of that world class form he used to have, and slotted a neat through ball from Koke right through the legs of Barca keeper Marc Andre Ter-Stegen. The Rojoblancos led 1-0, until disaster struck. The hero turned to the villain as Fernando Torres was shown his second yellow and sent off just 10 minutes after scoring the leading goal. Atletico went into half time up 1-0 (with a crucial away goal), until the second half where MSN showed why they're the best in the biz. Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan international, scored 2 goals in the span of 11 minutes to give Barca the lead and ultimately the win. They now head into next week's clash at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid, with a 2-1 aggregate lead. 

Bayern Munich (Germany) vs. SL Benfica (Portugal) (Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany)

Though this battle was well fought, it wasn't the most interesting. Bayern broke the deadlock around 2 minutes in when a beautiful build-up play got finished off by the former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal. After scoring first, Bayern protected it's lead, giving Neuer a clean sheet, while failing to break down Benfica's back line. The German Giants take a shaky 1-0 lead with them back to Portugal next week in the return leg.

Paris Saint-Germain (France) vs. Manchester City (England) (Parc de Princes, Paris, France)

This matchup was one with potential. Two teams who have been so close to the semifinals now get to duel for a spot they both want dearly. The first leg of the fixture was fast paced and thrilling, everything you want in a Champions League fixture. The start of the game was plagued with a couple of questionable penalty calls for the home team when Blaise Matuidi was taken down by Managala on a clear scoring opportunity. The penalty should've been given, and Mangala should've been shown red, but the referee failed to give the call. A couple of possessions later, PSG CB David Luiz got the ball from a corner kick in the box, settled it, made a move infield, and was taken down by Man City RB Bacary Sagna. The replay showed Sagna did stick out his left leg, but the challenge was avoidable, and the contact was forced by Luiz, and the reaction deserved an Oscar. The penalty was given, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepped up, and was stopped cold by Joe Hart in net. It wasn't until the 38th minute that Manchester City star signing Kevin De Bruyne, recently back from injury, slotted a cannon of a shot down the middle on a counter attack, giving the Cityzens a key away goal, and a lead. The lead didn't last for long, as Man City MF Fernando got a goal kick from Joe Hart, took a lackadaisical awful touch, and fired a pass into Ibra which went into the net to tie the game. The second half was again, fiery, and PSG took a lead when a header from FW Edison Cavan was tapped in the back post by young MF Adrien Rabiot. The Parisian giant looked to be heading to Manchester up 2-1, when in the 72nd minute, Man City MF Fernandinho ripped a shot in the box, that deflected, and swerved past PSG GK Kevin Trapp, and into the bottom corner, giving Man City a 2-2 draw, with an advantage heading back to the Etihad.

VFL Wolfsburg (Germany) vs. Real Madrid CF (Spain) (Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg, Germany)

UPSET ALERT!!!!!! Yes, you read that right, the German team stunned the Spanish giants, and took home a 2-0 win at home. It was stunning. Wolfsburg came out firing, when a silly challenge by Real MF Casemiro minute in the 18th gifted the home side with a penalty kick. Wolfsburg LB Ricardo Rodriguez slotted home the penalty, giving the home side a 1-0 lead. Around 7 minutes later, beautiful play from the German side resulted in a beautiful front post run by MF Maximillian Arnold, who slotted home a neat flick right by GK Keylor Navas. The German side then held its own for the next hour or so, and will now take a 2-0 lead to Madrid with them.

Overall, very interesting fixtures see Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and Wolfsburg as the favorite for the last 4 of the Champions League. Hopefully the return fixtures next week are just as interesting.