Champions League return matches round of 16 offered us a roller-coaster of emotions! Except for Manchester City and Tottenham, nobody else managed to keep hold of the advantage secured in the first leg.
As said, there are no more easy opponents. To progress, you need to give it all in both matches!
Real Madrid vs Ajax 1 – 4 (Agg. 3-5)
This season we’ll get a new continental champion! Real Madrid had a healthy yet undeserving advantage from Amsterdam but this time luck wasn’t there to dig them out!
Young and exciting Dutch team danced all over the reigning champions and inflicted one of the biggest European upsets to the Spanish giants. And in Champions League history!
Led by particularly inspired Dušan Tadić, Ajax displayed youthful exuberance combined with lethal finishing and tactical discipline. The Serb enjoyed the individual performance of the season!
Merengues midfield and defense will surely have nightmares for some time. After the dizziness goes away.
Truthfully, Real helped the opposition with rarely seen lack of bite and unjustified over-confidence at this level.
Solari blew all chances he had of retaining the managerial role in one week. Back-to-back defeats to Barcelona, to kiss Copa and La Liga hopes goodbye, were followed by an abysmal game against Ajax.
The elimination from the competition resulted in Solari’s sacking and reinstallment of Zinedine Zidane on the hot seat.
Definitively the more deserving team progressed.
Borussia Dortmund vs Tottenham 0 – 1 (Agg. 0-4)
The Germans had an even harder task at their hand than Ajax. They tried, 15 shots on goal confirm that, however, the lone on target attempt by Tottenham sealed the deal.
Coming back from a 3 goal deficit is difficult when your attack is firing on all cylinders.
If you don’t score in 2 games it’s only fair to be eliminated.
Borussia is the only team in the round of 16 that failed to hit the back of the net. Every other team managed so at least once.
Whether it’s your attack misfiring or the opposing goalkeeper having the game of his life, having a 0 in the scored column just doesn’t pass at this level.
PSG vs Manchester United 1 – 3 (Agg. 3-3a)
How do you keep on sabotaging yourself every year over and over? Look for answers in the French capital!
PSG was the team that had the best score before the return game; 2 goals advantage and playing at home!
Beside that, the rival came to Paris missing 10 players!
Tuchel said that they’ll cope somehow without Neymar and Cavani in Manchester. What did Solskjear think of his starting line-up in the biggest game in his reign?
Moreover, United passed the turn without creating a single goal-scoring opportunity! In 2 games!
Surely, Solskjear’s men rode their luck on multiple occasions in the double confrontation. Mbappe tripped over the ball in crucial situations and virtually the only shot Buffon didn’t catch in his career fell on Lukaku’s left foot.
And the last-minute penalty? Another fortunate detail in United’s favor, however, the contest should be over well before the incident.
But then again, PSG is getting used to such isolated episodes that keep on ruining their Champions League triumph ambitions.
Porto vs Roma 3 – 1 AET (Agg. 4-3)
By far the weakest pair in the second round ended in the most dramatic fashion. Roma came to Portugal with the thinnest possible advantage and duly let it slip.
Porto hardly deserved its goal in the Eternal City and somehow managed to limit the Romans to just 2 goals. This time the roles changed.
Dragoes attacked mercilessly and amassed over 20 attempts on goal. Eventually, a stupid and totally unnecessary shirt-pull from Florenzi gave the tie-breaking penalty for the home side shortly before the end of extra-time.
The Italians might feel harmed by a late challenge on Zaniolo judged regular however the real damage was done in Rome.
Initially, I believed that whoever would progress from this fixture would end the adventure in the next round and I haven’t changed my mind.
Juventus vs Atletico Madrid 3 – 0 (Agg. 3-2)
Allegri, Ronaldo and the whole Juve team were heavily criticized after the first game performance. Very few genuinely believed in the comeback.
However, somehow Atleti displayed an even worse showing in Turin than Juve did in Madrid.
It’s easy to claim that Juve dominated the match just because Simeone’s team never gave any signals that they’re interested or capable of keeping up with the motivated hosts!
Right from the start, it was clear that the rojiblancos, despite fielding two attackers, have no intention of passing the half-way line. They were more than happy to sit back and let Juve do all the work.
This approach backfires more often than not and opens a lot of questions. The main one is; if you have no interest in attacking, why 2 attackers?
Morata and Griezman didn’t have a kick the whole game, besides one header from the Spaniard. They offer you next to nothing defense-wise and the tactics prevent them from doing anything going forward; what was their task?
Meanwhile, Allegri learned the lesson, fielded a back-three that included 2 good passers in order to keep the team ticking and prevented efficiently
Ronaldo scored the goals and rightfully earned all the praises but two others deserve special mention; Bernardeschi and Spinazzola.
The Italy duo ran rings around Atletico’s full backs! Berna was particularly in vein and surely felt some pressure being preferred to Dybala. And he didn’t crumble under the spotlight but he thrived in it!
My personal favorite for the final victory completed a historical come-back and regained pole-position in a fearsome display of ruthless efficiency and iron will!
Manchester City vs Schalke 04 7 – 0 (Agg. 10-2)
Any comments needed? Schalke looked horribly out of depth and the final result shows it. They have more important things to think of then the Champions League.
Barcelona vs Lyon 5 – 1 (Agg. 5-1)
The French side somehow survived the first match without conceding but this time everything was more or less over by the 30th minute.
Barcelona isn’t playing the same dominating, 65%+ possession football we were used to, but the talent at their disposal is just way too much for Lyon.
True, at some point Lyon was just a goal away from progression but then Messi stepped up and all hopes of another surprise disappeared.
Not a fair fight, by any means, but credit to the French for not giving up.
Bayern Munich vs Liverpool 1 – 3 (Agg. 1-3)
One of the most balanced ties, on paper, turned up a rather one-sided affair.
After the goalless draw in North England, Bayern coach and his team were praised for a tactical match that secured a positive result for the return fixture.
The German giants believed, of or least said so, that progression is within their grasp. Although the result might suggest so, proceedings on the pitch begged to differ.
In 180 minute of football Alison hardly touched the ball, much less made a meaningful save! If that’s what Bayern’s hierarchy understands under having a good chance of progression than I feel sorry for them.
Kovač apparently didn’t do his homework, or did it poorly; playing a #10 against Liverpool means playing with 10 men. James hardly saw the ball and when he did, he had to come deep for it.
This left Lewandowski all alone against center-backs starved of any service. At all. In 2 whole matches!
The biggest German club continued the trend against English opposition; failed miserably! Champions League is not Bundesliga!
Champions League road to Madrid
The draw has been made for the rest of the competition.
The winner between Ajax and Juventus will face the better from Manchester City vs Tottenham.
Liverpool will play it against Porto in quarter-finals which leaves Barcelona facing Manchester United. This opens the door for a possible English classic in the semi-final.
First knock-out stage served with some of the historical come-from-behind clashes which will live long in the memory. Some earned, some gifted but all of them thrilling and exciting.
Both Madrid teams and all German teams were taught a football lesson. PSG and Roma beat themselves and Lyon never really stood a chance.
Can’t wait for the next round to start!