Champions League Shocks and Awes in Round of 16 First Legs
by Caleb Rhodes on Friday, February 24th, 2017
This week’s article is really hard for me to write…really, really, really hard. I had to watch as my beloved FC Barcelona was cut open by PSG, who beat us not by one, two, or three, but four goals. However, this result, as challenging to my psyche as it was, was not abnormal in the context of other Champions League Round of 16 matches. In fact, the only game that wasn’t filled to the brim with goals was Benfica vs Dortmund which ended 1-0.
In this particular game, Dortmund would have been disappointed to see their dominance go unrewarded. They controlled the game with 65% of the possession and had four shots on goal to Benfica’s one. Yet in this sport, the winner is not determined by the quality of the play or the aesthetics of the passing moves but by the team that puts the ball in the net more often. While Dortmund squandered chance after chance, Benfica’s Kostas Mitroglou scored a scrappy tap-in to lead Benfica to an undeserved victory.
In the second day of Champions League action Bayern Munich absolutely obliterated Arsenal 5-1. Dutchman Arjen Robben scored a delicious curling effort after cutting in onto his left foot in classic Robben style. Alexis Sanchez eventually equalized after missing a penalty, fluffing the rebound, but finally tucking the ball away in his third attempt. However, the night was not to be Arsenal’s, and Munich quickly added four more goal in the second half. Lewandowski added a second in the 53rd minute before Thiago Alcantara chimed in with a brace in the 56th and 63rd minutes. Substitute Thomas Müller finished the battering in the 88th minute to leave the score 5-1 and Arsenal a mountain to climb in the second leg. Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer summed up the game when he described it as “a holiday.”
Real Madrid beat Napoli at home 3-1 in an entertaining match. Lorenzo Insigne got the game off to a blistering start when he caught Madrid keeper Keylor Navas off his line and perfectly placed the ball in the bottom right corner from 40 meters out, but Madrid were not to be contained. Benzema and Kroos scored to put Madrid ahead 2-1, and defensive midfielder Casemiro put the result beyond doubt when he walloped a brilliant volley in the 54th minute.
In another outrageous game, Atletico dissected Leverkusen on their way to a 2-4 away win, but the most insane result by far in this round of fixtures was Manchester City vs Monaco. The game finished 5-3, but the journey was so much more than the result. Raheem Sterling continued his recent good form and finished Leroy Sane’s whipped ball across the face of the before a glorious Falcao goal quickly tied the game up. 18 year-old Kylian Mbappe scored his first Champions League goal to give Monaco the advantage at halftime. After the break Aguero tied the game, but Falcao took it upon himself to pull Monaco back into the lead. He stole the ball from John Stones before unleashing an audacious chip over a helpless Willy Caballero. Aguero scored again and Stones got his revenge on Falcao to bring the score to 4-3, and Sane finished the game off when he scored Man City’s fifth in the 82nd minute. Thus the highest scoring first-leg tie in a knockout round of the Champions League was concluded.
In the final two matches of the round, Juventus beat Porto 0-2, and Sevilla beat Leicester 2-1. Although FC Barcelona had a bad game, these first-leg ties were some of the most raucous, entertaining affairs in recent memory. Hopefully, the second-leg can rival the first.
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