The first leg of the UEFA Champions League has been completed. After a handful of thrilling games, a couple of teams are already standing with one foot in the quarter finals. However, most draws are still wide open ahead of the second leg of the first knockout round.
Bayern Munich – Besiktas
In what we expected to be a very one-sided affair, Besiktas started the game very strong and managed to create some very dangerous chances early on. The tide would turn after only 16 minutes, however, when defender Domagoj Vida was sent off after tripping Bayern attacker Robert Lewandowski from behind.
Bayern managed to take the lead just before half time and they showed no mercy in the second half, making full use of their 1-man advantage. The game ended a crushing 5-0 for the German champions, after two goals each from Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.
Besiktas will be disappointed with the result, having started the game so well. Surely, Bayern can now travel to Turkey being very confident to progress in to the round of the last 8 teams.
Chelsea – Barcelona
In yet another clash between two teams that have given us some legendary battles over the years, it was Barcelona who took a firm grip of the proceedings early on. Despite playing at home, Chelsea allowed Barcelona to take the initiative and fell deep, focusing on counter-attacks. The Catalans created a couple of half chances early on, but despite seeing less of the ball, it was Chelsea who came closest to scoring the first goal of the evening. Brazilian winger, Willian, managed to hit both posts within just 5 minutes, proving to be simply too quick for Sergio Busquets to handle. Despite getting so close, the game was still goalless going in to half-time.
The second half started very much in the same way as the first. However, Barcelona, without cup-tied Coutinho and injured star-signing Dembele, currently lack that deadly pace up front to pose the same threat as they’ve done previously in recent years. And as the game went on, Chelsea seemed to have Barcelona more and more under control.
In the 62nd minute, Willian got the ball once again just outside Barcelona’s penalty area. With a quick flick of the ball to the right, he blasted a spinning shot around a passive Barcelona defence, leaving Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen with no chance. Chelsea who’ve had such a stormy season thus far, were suddenly 1-0 up against title candidates Barcelona – a solid result to bring to Camp Nou ahead of the return.
But then it happened; an impeccable Chelsea defence so far, made that 1 crucial mistake that you simply can’t afford at this level. Danish star defender, Andreas Christensen, passed the ball across his own penalty area, right in to the hands of Andres Iniesta, who served Messi in front of goal. The Argentinian made no mistake as he firmly placed the ball in the back of the net, marking the final result, 1-1.
With this result in mind, Barcelona are now heavy favourites to progress in to the next round, ahead of the return leg in Cataluna.
Sevilla – Manchester United
In what I predicted to be a rather defensive affair beforehand, indeed, both teams took a rather careful approach to this game. United played with 10 men behind the ball and adopted a strong pressing game in their own half. Up front, they relied heavily on the strength of Romelu Lukaku and the pace of new signing Alexis Sanchez. United’s attacking efforts only really came to fruition once in the first half, when Lukaku blasted a volley out wide. As first half progressed, Sevilla’s wingers got more offensive and United had goalkeeper De Gea to thank for keeping a clean sheet going in to half time.
Second half was slightly better from United, but they still allowed Sevilla to create a handful of decent chances. Sevilla always looked dangerous coming down United’s flanks, as the Englishmen were a bit slow to respond when the Spaniards swiftly and skilfully turned the play from one side to the other. Aside from Lukaku’s decent chance in the first half, United failed to create any chances worthy of note and recorded only 1 shot on goal throughout the whole game.
United should count themselves somewhat lucky to come away with a draw, in a game which they so easily could have lost. However, the 0-0 draw still means that the “Reds” are deemed favourites to progress in to the next round, ahead of the return leg just 3 weeks from now. We might see a different United at Old Trafford, putting Sevilla’s defence under slightly more pressure than they did tonight.
Shakthar Donetsk – Roma
In their third meeting, Shakthar did what they always do against Roma – they won. In sub-zero temperatures, both teams started the game at a blistering pace and it was the Italians who created the best chances early on. Not surprisingly then, it was Roma who took the lead, just 4 minutes before the half time break. Edin Dzeko served up a delicious pass for Turkish starlet Cengiz Under, who did just enough to put the ball past Shakthar goal keeper, Andriy Pyatov.
Going in to the second half with a 1 goal deficit, Shakthar was left with no choice but to attack. And they did! Within just 7 minutes, Facundo Ferreyra slipped past the Roma defense and placed the ball behind Brazil’s first choice keeper, Alisson. Determined to secure a good result ahead of the return leg, the Ukrainians kept pushing for the leading goal. Just 20 minutes later, Brazilian Fred scored a real stunner from the free kick spot, as the ball found its way in off the crossbar.
In the end, it was Shakthar who kept pushing for more, as the Roma defence managed to clear the ball off the goal line, just minutes before the final whistle. In 3 weeks from now, there’s still everything to play for, in what we expect to be another cracker of a game!
Aside from Bayern Munich, who are practically qualified for the quarter finals already, this week added 3 more games with everything to play for ahead of the second leg!