An epic week in the Champions League saw Pep Guardiola failing to step-up once again while Ajax upset the Old Lady – here are the winners and losers
Terrific. Unreal. Pure football magic. After demolishing Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, The youngest, freshest, most entertaining side in the world outplayed Juventus at the Allianz Stadium, winning 2-1 and booking a place in the semifinals. Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Dusan Tadic, and so on and so forth, will go down in history as one of the best playing sides ever. And now – can anyone stop them?
As Cristiano Ronaldo suffers a huge blow, Messi shows the world his greatness. Two goals in four minutes to break Manchester United, and put Barcelona in the semifinals. Pure class at the highest level.
Manchester City had gone mad after that late Raheem Sterling goal that would have taken them to the semifinals. Pep Guardiola was jumping everywhere. Then the goal was disallowed, for a clear offside. Impeccable. For all those who say VAR takes away some of the magic – it certainly does. But an offside goal is not allowed. Long live the VAR.
Tottenham showed up at the Etihad Stadium without Harry Kane, and all seemed to suggest a 1-0 lead wouldn’t have been enough to reach the semifinals. The opening 10 minutes were insane, and Tottenham made the most of the shocking start to then hold on to the result enough to make it through. When City then scored the fourth goal, Fernando Llorente became the hero with a historical goal – with his hip – to send Spurs into the next round.
On paper they were the favourites in this tie, adding Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer to an already great group of players. They failed their test, and were outclassed by the surprise of the season. Many of the key players disappointed, from Leonardo Bonucci to Paulo Dybala, from Federico Bernardeschi to Joao Cancelo. Simply not good enough.
Ajax were great, and dominant. But on paper, Juventus should be better. Allegri has won four consecutive doubles, and is a point away from another Serie A title, and in his spell with the Bianconeri also managed to reach two Champions League finals, but his style of football has never been attacking and entertaining – the exact opposite of this Ajax side. He crumbled, and has no excuses.
The “signing of the century” wasn’t enough to carry Juventus all the way to lifting the Champions League trophy. He did his job, but as he confessed himself to his mother, he “cannot do miracles”, and despite scoring five goals in his last three Champions League appearances, Ronaldo is out of the competition. After eight consecutive semi-finals, this time he had to stop at the quarter-finals. Perhaps he is reevaluating his decision to leave Madrid?
City were favourites, dominated for most of the two-legged encounter, yet once again a Pep Guardiola side exits the Champions League against the odds. Football, in a nutshell. The terrible start should have been an omen of things to come. Manchester City played great football up front, but defended terribly, and in the end were also unlucky, with Llorente’s hip goal and the Sergio Aguero offside goal. Next time, Pep.