Champions League Round Up.

Galatasaray 3 – 2 Real Madrid (3-5 agg)

A spirited performance from the Turkish champions was not enough to over haul the deficit, as Madrid stutter through to the semis.
Few would’ve given Galatasaray a chance before the match. Things weren’t helped by Ronaldo’s opening goal, smashed home from close range after a Khedira cross. They now needed a seemingly impossible five goals to qualify. Chances for them were hard to come by in the first half, with familiar faces, Eboue, Sneijder and Drogba failing to impress.
The second half saw a complete turn around though, with the aforementioned familiar faces all scoring. Eboue first with a Carlos Alberto style, driven, powerful finish into the top corner. All this moments after Ronaldo missed an absolute sitter to kill the match. Sneijder bagged the second after nutmegging Varane and slotting past the keeper. Drogba scored the third a minute later with a cute flick from a cross into the bottom corner. Madrid were shell shocked, and Galatasaray only needed two more in twenty minutes to achieve the impossible. They thought they’d got one of them shortly after but Drogba’s effort was ruled out for offside. Despite pressing heavily, the Turkish team couldn’t muster another chance. To compound their misery, Ronaldo smashed in another goal to completely kill off the tie in stoppage time after Benzema’s cutback to make it 3-2 on the night. This all occurred shortly after Madrid defender Arbeloa managed to get himself sent off, after receiving two bookings in 30 seconds, after a poor tackle and dissent afterward.

Questions will be asked no doubt as to whether Mardid can go all the way now, we all expected them to win at a canter, but they definitely made it hard work for themselves. You’d expect them to be more focused in the semi final, and with the likes of Ramos and Alonso returning to the squad, they’ll be a tough opponent for anyone they face.

Borussia Dortmund 3 – 2 Malaga (3-2 agg)

The German champions produced a frankly ridiculous stoppage time comeback, one that we’d associate with the English, not the Germans.

After a goalless draw in Spain, that Dortmund should’ve won, the onus was on them again to perform at their own ground. After dominating early proceedings it was Malaga who took an advantage in the tie, with the experienced Joaquin slotting home after Isco’s pass. Dortmund responded well, and equalised soon after after a superb team goal, culminating in Lewandowski chipping the keeper after Reus’s crafty flick. Malaga then dominated proceedings, and repeatedly tested the German keeper. They eventually got their reward and seemingly winning goal after 82 minutes, when after some neat build up play, substitute Eliseu prodded home to make it 2-1. The Germans were incensed by the goal, as it appeared Eliseu was offside when he scored, they now needed two goals to qualify. Time had all but run out for them, but the fat lady hadn’t sung yet. The ball being punted into the box, and after being set up by make shift center forward Santana, Marco Reus prodded home, to give his side some hope. Malaga were still ahead on away goals, so another was still needed. With seconds remaining, the ball again punted into the box. Julian Schieber mis hit a shot, but it fell on the line to that man Santana again to prod home on the line to seal a dramatic victory. To make it even sweeter for Dortmund, the winner appeared to be offside, a fitting pay back it would seem for them after Malaga’s second goal.

Borussia Dortmund, probably the neutrals favourite to win this competition, and the bookies least favourite. After their astonishing comeback, their spirits will be sky high going into the semi finals. The big question being, can their inexperienced squad deal with the pressure of playing in such a big game?

Barcelona 1 – 1 PSG (3-3 agg Barcelona through on away goals)

Barcelona progressed narrowly against the French league leaders, but faced a tremendous scare along the way. PSG took the lead in the game, and therefore the tie. Before the introduction of the absent Lionel Messi, saw Barcelona regain the advantage through Pedro’s goal and cling on for victory.

PSG knew realistically that they had to win this game to qualify, and showed their attacking intent from the off. Barcelona were playing with only one recognised center back, with Mascherano and Puyol injured, as well as missing some other forward called Messi. Without Messi, in the first half, Barcelona’s attacks lacked conviction, with nearly all of their shots being way off target, with only Xavi going close to troubling Sirigu. PSG were having similar difficulties though, also being restricted to long shots. The visitors however did look the more likely to score, with Lucas Moura being particularly impressive. The second half saw more of the same from the home side, with Fabregas looking fairly wasteful in his newly adopted “Messi” role. It was early in this half that PSG took a deserved lead, some neat link up play on the break saw Pastore released on goal down the left. despite being pushed out wide by the covering defender he still managed to angle a shot over Valdes to take his team into the lead in the tie for the first time. This quickly prompted the introduction of Messi, still nursing an injury and not 100% fit, Barcelona naturally dominated possession in their own inevitable way after this. Messi had a good chance to reply soon after coming on, but he miscontrolled after Villa’s initial shot was saved. Pastore had a great chance to double his side’s advantage but scuffed his shot wide, before Barcelona got their goal. Neat play by Messi around the area, ended up with the ball being laid off to Pedro, to blast it into the corner from 16 yards to put his side back in the lead in the tie. The introduction of Messi really galvanized Barca, and their passing and general play dramatically improved. PSG threw almost everybody they had forward, but never carved out another chance for the goal that would’ve seen them through. Barcelona clung on then, for a very very narrow victory.

Well, not many people would’ve predicted how close PSG would come to knocking out the tournament favourites. Barcelona showed in this tie, that with Messi not on the pitch, they can be easily outplayed. With their defence stretched thin, they always looked vulnerable on the counter attack, and PSG can count themselves unlucky not to have beaten them. This game could well have just made Bayern Munich the new favourites for the trophy now.

Juventus 0 – 2 Bayern Munich (0-4 agg)

Bayern came into this match, freshly crowned German champions in early April full of confidence. Juventus had a tall ask from the ofset, but never looked likely to overturn their first leg defeat. Bayern casually waltzing into the semi finals.

Juventus knew they had to attack from the offset, the main trouble for them being, containing Bayern on the counter attack, with all the pace they possess. One goal for Bayern would efectively kill the tie, so the Italians had to be careful. Juventus enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the first half, but only had one real chance to show for it, a Pirlo free kick being well saved by Neuer. Come half time, Bayern seemed very comfortable, and Juventus’s chances of qualification seemed very slim. Quagliarella hit the post with a long range effort, and Robben did soon after before we saw the opening goal. Mario Mandzukic scoring with a header after Javi Martinez forced a good save from Buffon. The win was well and truly out of Juventus’ sails after this. After the goal, Bayern had chance after chance to put the Italians out of their misery, which they finally did, after former Chelsea reject Claudio Pizarro scored after some brilliant work from Schwenisteiger in midfield. A clinical performance from Bayern in a tie they never showed any sign of losing.

A comfortable victory in the end then for Bayern, they have obviously learnt from their exploits with Arsenal how to defend a lead in Europe now. Juventus huffed and puffed, but over the coarse of the two games, were outplayed. Out of all the semi finalists, Bayern were the only team to go through easily. With their combination of experience, pace and skill, they could well now be the team to beat.


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