Wow! In my previous article I was wrong about pretty much everything. But that’s ok – who doesn’t like surprises. After some truly nail-biting drama, 2 teams are through to the quarter finals.
Liverpool – Porto
In a game that was somewhat decided in the first leg already, Liverpool looked unusually composed as they carefully defended their 5-0 lead from the first leg. Both teams had their chances to score, but in the end, both teams left this game goalless.
I must admit that I thought Liverpool only had 1 gear and that is go all out attack. Instead, they turned in a composed display, keeping things firmly under control. This means that Liverpool are through to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 9 years. If Liverpool can strike the perfect balance between their lethal attack and defence, I believe that they can pose a serious threat to this year’s title.
Paris Saint-Germain – Real Madrid
In arguably the biggest game of the first knockout stage, two title-favourites went at it again, as Real Madrid travelled to Paris to defend their 3-1 lead from the first leg.
PSG stepped on the gas as they took up the chase for an early goal, whilst Real were the more careful side, risking very little at the back. Going in to half-time however, it was Real who had created the best chances, clearly showing their advantage in experience at this level. The second half had barely started when Christiano Ronaldo’s header found its way in to the net in the 51st minute.
Verratti managed to talk his way to a second yellow card, but somehow PSG managed to make it 1-1 shortly thereafter, giving their fans a small glimmer of hope. However, it took only 9 minutes until Casemiro made it 2-1 for Real and it was all over.
The Spanish side who ended “only” second in their Champions League group and find themselves “only” in third place in La Liga, are now considered by many as one of the favourites to win the whole tournament.
Manchester City – Basel
After winning 4-0 away in the first meeting, I, along with most punters, thought that City would claim yet another easy victory over a much less merited opponent. Boy, was I wrong!
City made it 1-0 after just 8 minutes and it looked like the start of another crushing defeat for the Swiss side. However, to many people’s surprise, the Swiss fought back as Mohamed Elyounoussi made it 1-1 in the 18th minute. The teams went in to half time with nothing between them. Basel stunned everyone in the 71st minute when Michael Lang made it 2-1 for the visitors, leaving the City fans in shock as the Englishmen recorded their first loss at home in 459 days.
Tottenham – Juventus
In a game that was all even at 2-2 going in to this game, I had Tottenham as slight favourites to go through, considering their home advantage. And in the first half, it certainly looked like I was right.
Right from the kickoff, Tottenham turned up the tempo, as they cut through Juventus defense like a spear, from left, right and center. Juventus simply couldn’t keep up with the pace and the movement of players like Eriksen, Song and Kane up front. It came as no surprise when Song made it 1-0 in the 39th minute, after a brilliant move by this deadly trio. Second half started very much like the first and Tottenham seemed to be well on their way to the quarter finals.
Juventus coach Allegri knew he had to act quick and brought on Lichtsteiner and Asamoah, aiming to bring more balance to his team. And only 3 minutes later it was Lichtsteiner who hit a swinging cross that finally reached Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain, who made it 1-1.
Stunned by the equalizer, Tottenham lost much of their momentum and only 3 minutes later, Dybala made it 2-1 for the Italian champions. Tottenham came so close in the end, when Harry Kane’s header struck the inside of the post, only to be cleared away by the Italian defence.
We saw it in Paris and we saw it in London – experience plays a crucial role at this stage of the tournament and it will be up to teams like Tottenham and PSG to learn from this and hopefully come back even stronger next season.