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Champions League Quarter Finals: First Leg Reviews

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Champions League Quarter Final Reviews

A quick recap of the action in the first round of Champions League quarter finals.

PSG v Manchester City – An Expensive Comedy of Errors.

David Luiz’s irresponsible yellow card merely 12 seconds into the tie not only ruled the Brazilian out of the return leg, but also epitomised the underlying absurdity in last night’s Champions League ‘El Cashico’. After the referee refused to award PSG a stonewall penalty after a foul on Matuidi in the box, a spot kick was awarded for a much less obvious foul on David Luiz.

Within a week of asserting the fact that he is not like us, and reminding us of his name while drinking some vitamin water, Zlatan Ibrahimovic surprised us all by taking an unconvincing penalty which Joe Hart parried away rather easily (although credit must be given for guessing the right way).

A poor Matuidi pass in the midfield was seized upon by Fernando, which led to a clinical finish by Kevin De Bruyne, who does not look like a player who has been sidelined by injury for several months. However, within seconds, Fernando cancelled out his good pressure by taking far too long on a pass from Joe Hart, his panicked pass found Ibrahimovic’s foot, and the ball rolled into an empty net for the equaliser.

The next mistake in the run up to a goal came from the officials, who failed to notice that Ibrahimovic was offside and interfering with play in front of Joe Hart. After a passage of pinball in the box from a PSG corner, Rabiot was the sharpest and finished with a cool head, but on another day the linesman would have ruled out the goal. Paris seemed to have the tie under control, and even hit the crossbar from a Zlatan header

Having finally made his way back into the first team following an online smearing of manager Laurent Blanc and his teammates, Serge Aurier perhaps displayed his lack of competitive football by being caught in possession on his right flank, and in attempting to make amends for this mistake the youngster drifted into the middle of the box, causing confusion when a cross was drilled in. The ball bounced towards Fernandinho, whose deflected shot pea-rolled into Kevin Trapp’s net.

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The game then petered out, and Manchester City’s attacking mentality paid dividends as PSG find themselves with a mountain to climb at the Etihad without the suspended David Luiz and Blaise Matuidi, and are valued at 6/5 to qualify. Discovering which of these two teams will get closer to the holy grail that is the Champions League promises to be the most exciting of second legs.

Tip for the next leg: Both Teams to Score @ 4/7.


Wolfsburg v Real Madrid – No Underwear Selfies from Ronaldo.

In what was by far the surprise package of the first round of Champions League quarter finals, Wolfsburg came out as comfortable winners of the home leg against ‘la décima’winning Real Madrid.

It would be fair to say that Real Madrid were on the wrong end of several decisions in the early stages of the game. Ronaldo slotted the ball in but was called offside in a situation where the benefit of the doubt should arguably be given to the attacker. However, replays do confirm that Ronaldo’s upper body was indeed offside. The debatable officiating decisions were confounded when Schürrle kicked Casemiro, who didn’t do much to impede the German winger, and Rodríguez stepped up to give his team the lead from the spot.

Less than 10 minutes later, good Wolfsburg build up play from Draxler seemed to stretch the Madrid defence, opening up Marcello’s left flank, and the drilled cross from Henrique met Arnold who doubled the German club’s lead.

While Real Madrid can point the finger at these early refereeing decisions affecting the outcome of the match (and count themselves lucky that Marcello’s laughable dive went unseen), their biggest enemy was themselves. Their game plan left a lot to be desired. Their front three of Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale contained enough quality to give them a consistently dangerous edge in attack, however relying on individual brilliance was insufficient against Wolfsburg. The latter relied not only on luck, but also diligently following a strategy of compact defending  in the middle (not starting Kruse was a bold but ultimately acute managerial decision by Hecking) and flowing counter-attacking moves.

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that Real Madrid would be riding a wave of confidence following their victory in the weekend’s ‘El Clásico’ at the Nou Camp. Instead, we witnessed a regression into a team of individuals with seemingly unorganised attacks.

Both teams are now evenly valued at 17/20 to qualify, in what will be a fascinating return Champions League leg in Madrid.

Tip for the next leg: Real Madrid (-2) @ 5/4.

Barcelona v Atlético Madrid – A Tale of Anti-Heroes.

The odds of Fernando Torres scoring were rather high (@ 7/2) given how much the striker enjoys scoring against the Catalan team, and he scored his first Champions League goal in two years midway through the first half, with a nice finish through the legs of ter Stegen. For a while, Atlético had Barcelona under control, and seemed to have taken pointers from their Madrid rivals’ Nou Camp weekend victory. That was until Torres decided to make a needless challenge in the centre circle, and was subsequently dismissed having been booked earlier on.

Atlético Madrid were forced to defend in a manner reminiscent of Inter and Chelsea in previous Champions League campaigns, but their bus was outmanoeuvred by an instinctive Luis Suárez tap in from a wild Jordi Alba shot. Suárez then scored an impressive header to give Barcelona the lead. While Filipe Luis is undoubtedly biased in his comments about referees refusing to dismiss Barcelona players, it is undeniable that Suárez was fortunate not to have seen a straight red card for a malicious kick on Juanfran in the first half, and only receiving a yellow card for pushing Filipe Luis in the face later on.

The match ended in a bizarre atmosphere, with Atlético the more relieved of sides as they take a very recoverable aggregate score back with them to the Vicente Calderón, despite being valued at 10/3 to qualify, in what will be a very tight affair.

Tip for the next leg: 2-1 Correct Score @ 11/1.

Bayern v Benfica – Bayern Not So Deadly.

After being made to play Juventus in the first knockout round, one might have thought that playing Benfica in the quarters would prove to be an easier fixture for the Bavarians. However, unlike the Bayern Munich side we had grown used to seeing tear teams apart in comparable fixtures, Pep’s side seemed to show complacency after taking the lead in the first couple of minutes from a cool Arturo Vidal finish.

In the end, clear cut chances were shared evenly, and on another night Jonas would have punished Bayern Munich and taken a draw back to Portugal. Bayern’s complacency was illustrated by their late chance, where Lewandowski spurned a one-on-one by attempting to square it, with the ball rolling out for a goal kick.

At the end of the day, Bayern Munich remain a favourite to win the Champions League this season, and home win without conceding an away goal means they are still odds on to qualify. The second leg is still finely poised, and a solid Benfica performance could well undermine their 7/1 odds of making it through.

Tip for the next leg: Bayern Munich with Both Teams to Score @ 13/5.

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