Impact’s Tom Kfoury offers his thoughts on the Champions League quarterfinals.
This is Roma’s first appearance in the Champions League (then European Cup) semi-final since the 1983/84 season. After the second leg, Roma deserved to advance to the semifinal. They had two-times the number of shots on goal and corners. Roma were constantly putting Barca under pressure. Edin Dzeko was excellent for Roma across both legs. He scored the vital away goal in the first leg and opened the scoring for Roma in the sixth minute of the second leg. He also forced Barca’s Gerard Piqué into fouling him in the box for the penalty.
As good as Roma were, Barca were just as bad. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were invisible. Messi did not directly influence play until the last 10 minutes when Barca were already down 3-0. Suarez’s troubles in the Champions League this season are well-documented, only scoring one goal. Barca’s defending was also terrible. Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen was indecisive for the first goal. While Barca’s set-piece on the corner where Kostas Manolas scored Roma’s third was awful. Overall, Barcelona were slow and must have thought that they could coast through this match.
This is a Cinderella run for Roma and anyone who predicted them to advance this far is crazy. However, Roma are certainly battle-tested in the Champions League. They managed to advance out of a group with Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. They also beat a tough Shakhtar Donetsk side and now Barcelona in the knockout stages. But in this point of the Champions League, no matter who Roma play in the semifinals, they will be considered the underdogs.
Liverpool are Manchester City’s kryptonite
Manager Pep Guardiola set his team up for an all-out attack. It only took Manchester City one minute and 57 seconds to score. With the aggregate scoreline at 3-1 Manchester City needed two more goals to force extra time and pretty much the entire game to do so. And it was Manchester City who dominated the first half. Liverpool were under constant pressure, unable to get out of their own half. Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva hit the post and Leroy Sané had a goal incorrectly disallowed. Out of the two teams, Manchester City were more likely to score the next goal. However, as soon as the whistle blew for the first half it went downhill for Manchester City. Man City had failed to add to their one goal lead and Guardiola was sent off for arguing with the referee.
City could not keep up the pressure that they had generated in the first half. Guardiola’s absence on the sideline looked to have a huge impact on how Manchester City’s played. Liverpool were given more time on the ball and frequently played out from their defense. Mohamed Salah scored his 39th goal in all competitions in the 56th minute and Roberto Firmino killed off Manchester City in the 77th minute. Among active managers Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp has the most wins against Guardiola, eight. This is also Liverpool’s third win against Manchester City this year (two in the Champions League and one in the Premier League). Klopp’s pressing and counter-attacking style completely cancels out Guardiola’s possession-style game.
With how good Manchester City have been this year, exiting in the quarterfinals of the Champions League is a disappointment. Meanwhile, this is Liverpool’s 10th visit to the semifinals, and they will feel like they can beat any of the remaining teams.
Bayern Munich vs. Sevilla was a snoozefest
All of the drama from this game was sucked out and sent to Madrid (and I am okay with that). This game was so boring. I feel sorry for anyone who watched this game. Perhaps even more sorry for the people who actually paid money for a ticket. Nothing happened in this game. Bayern and Sevilla played out to a 0-0 draw. That was enough to see Bayern advance to the semifinals thanks to a 2-1 win in the first leg. There is not much left to say about this game. So we are moving on.
Real Madrid have Ronaldo, and that’s enough
This game was fantastic, and Juventus nearly did it again. In the round of 16 Juventus came back from a poor home performance against Tottenham to advance. And after going down 3-0 in the first leg to Real Madrid, Juventus had a lot of work to do. It did not take long for Juventus to start their comeback. Mario Mandzukic scored the first of his first goal in the second minute and his second goal in the 37th. The Italian side even had a little bit of luck that is necessary to win games like this. Real Madrid hit the bar late in the first half.
Only being down 3-2 on aggregate at half, Juventus continued to press the issue. Juventus’s three man midfield of Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira were dominating the game. They completely cancelled out Real Madrid’s midfield of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. Juventus’s midfield had such an upper hand that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane was forced to make two changes at the start of the second half to try and slow down Juventus. However these changes did not work as Matuidi tied the game in the 61st minute.
This game was destined for extra time. It deserved an extra 30 minutes and possibly penalties. However, a stupid foul by Juventus’s Mehdi Benatia in the 91st minute awarded Real Madrid a penalty. Madness ensued. Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for berating the referee as a crowd of Juventus players tried to persuade referee Michael Oliver to change his decision. All the while, Cristiano Ronaldo stood there waiting patiently for the melee the subside. Any other player might be affected by having to wait so long just to take a penalty. However, Ronaldo cooly slotted home a near-perfect penalty in the 98th minute, almost 5 minutes from when Benatia committed the foul.
Real Madrid’s hopes for a third Champions League title in a row are still alive.
The semifinal draw
Roma and Liverpool are the two weaker sides left in the competition, but one of them will play for the final. The last time the two played in European competition was 2001. Roma will have the second leg at home.
On the flip side, the glamour tie of the round is Bayern-Real. A rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, Real carried a 2-1 first-leg lead into Madrid, where a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick saw them through despite needing extra time and a few dodgy refereeing decisions.
Both first legs will start the week of April 24.