Real Madrid’s end of an era, another poor night for PSG but a Manchester United miracle – time for the Champions League winners and losers
No team had ever managed a comeback after a 2-0 home defeat in the Champions League knockout stages. This in itself is incredible. Add to it that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had 10 men out, it becomes epic.
United managed one of the greatest comebacks of the history of the competition. They were the better side in Paris, playing with more spirit and belief and coming out on top in a 3-1 win thanks to an ice-cold Marcus Rashford penalty.
A miracle. A historic comeback that will never be forgotten. A young, entertaining, team that demolished the European Champions. Incredible levels of football shown by Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Dutch side were superior throughout the two legs, and deserved the comeback, the victory, and a place in the best eight teams in Europe.
He produced one of the best individual performances ever in the history of football. And to do so at the Bernabeu, as an opponent, is even more amazing. Some Zinedine Zidane-esque moves, immense quality, two assists and a stunner of a goal. The perfect match. At 31, Tadic showed what he is really about.
It might be true that under Pochettino Tottenham haven’t yet won anything. But Spurs have been growing constantly, becoming a regular Premier League top three finisher and one of the best teams in Europe, playing great football and showing solidity.
It’s almost impossible to play at Borussia Dortmund and come out with a 1-0 victory. Harry Kane got the goal, Pochettino’s tactics and his men did the rest. A round of applause for him.
The hegemony is over. Three years of being European Champions, an era-defining team. But all good things come to an end, and Ajax were fresher and more motivated than Real Madrid.
At this level, “wanting it more” makes a huge difference, and Los Blancos simply didn’t seem to care. When you win so much, it’s difficult to stay up there. To be honest, it’s more surprising to see Real Madrid winning for three years in a row, than seeing them get knocked out after having won so much. They just weren’t up for it anymore.
Of course, you might have noticed that the Real Madrid captain wasn’t even on the pitch against Ajax. So how can he be amongst the “losers”? Well, he deliberately got himself booked in the first leg in order to skip the second and be fresh for the quarter-finals. Turns out there won’t be any quarter-final.
Unlucky, sure. But after the win at Old Trafford, and after scoring the equaliser at the Parc des Princes, a more mature side should have kept it together and qualified for the next round.
Individually, Paris were on paper much better than Manchester United, yet failed to show it in the second leg, after being so dominant in the first leg. Gianluigi Buffon let his team mates down with a mistake, and the Champions League continues to be a dream both for him and for Paris.
Put very simply, not scoring a goal in 180 minutes of football won’t get you very far. Dortmund were meant to be a goalscoring machine. Everyone expected a lot of goals and excitement from Dortmund and Tottenham, but only Tottenham lived up to expectations. And Dortmund quietly leave the Champions League.