UEFA Champions League: Let There be Semi-finals


The fact that all group stage “champions” made it to the quarter-finals definitely made them very memorable. After a balanced first leg with some solid wins and surprising draws, all has been resolved. Since we’re talking about the biggest club competition in the world, the resolution couldn’t happen without some very tense games and some surprising upsets. All of the teams, except Bayern Munich (already crowned,) won their league games this weekend. Some of them suffered, but it’s to be expected from this time of the season when the fatigue factor becomes prominent. In Tuesday’s match day, Real Madrid visited Borussia Dortmund. After a 3-0 win at home in Madrid, many thought a spot in the semi-finals was a done deal. However, Dortmund are known to be a team that never gives up and their fandom is one of the best ones in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo was on the bench that day, since his knee problems have forced him to rest for a bit. Illarramendi took his spot, giving Madrid the opportunity to have more ball possession; this wasn’t the case. After a handball in the box, Madrid were given a penalty very early, but Weidenfeller saved Di María’s shot. Not long after this, Dortmund’s momentum grew and two mistakes from Madrid cost them two goals from Reus before the halftime whistle. Madrid completely lost the ball and Dortmund crushed them in order to be one goal away from leveling things up. Illarramendi left and Isco took his spot in the second half. Ancelotti’s team improved a bit, gaining more control of the ball, but Casillas was their true hero by saving the team from a catastrophe. With Casemiro’s entry, the whites earned a fighting mentality that they hadn’t showed before. Unfortunately for Dortmund, their equalizer didn’t come and Madrid barely made it to the semi-finals. In the other Tuesday fixture, PSG visited Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The Paris side had gained an impressive, but not definitive 3-1 lead in the first leg. However, José Mourinho’s desire to make it to his fifth consecutive semi-final appearance (three different clubs) was enough of an argument to make this a match worth watching. The game was very equal in the midfield, with the goalkeepers not intervening much. That was until a long throw in to the box was slightly touched by David Luiz and found Schürrle completely alone to score. Chelsea had a handful of other opportunities to increase their lead and revert the quarter-final, but the Paris side fought hard to maintain their net from being reached. With four minutes plus the aggregate left to play, Eto’o’s shot inside the box was rejected and Azpilicueta tried again from further away, the shot was deflected and Demba Ba touched the ball as he fell to put it 2-0 for Chelsea and give them the chance to appear in the semi-finals. Mourinho, known for not holding anything back, ran through the sidelines and joined his players in the goal celebration. Eden Hazard’s away goal at Paris proved to be worth gold, as it made Chelsea advance despite the 3-3 overall. It wouldn’t be a semi-final without Chelsea, a sort of permanent fixture in this stage in recent Champions League history. The Wednesday fixtures both came from 1-1 draws at Barcelona and Old Trafford.  In the Spanish capital, Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona showed why they’ve drawn in all of their matches against each other this season. However, this came to an end with Atlético’s win 1-0. The match started with intensity from the Madrid side, and their efforts paid off when Koke scored the only goal after only 5 minutes into the game. They could’ve easily gathered some peace of mind after hitting the post three times in the entire game. Barcelona’s defense was surprisingly weak, but with Pinto blocking the shots that didn’t hit the wood, the blaugranas maintained their usually high ball possession. With Messi MIA, Barcelona weren’t able to reach their seventh consecutive semi-final appearance. The Madrid side more than deserved to gain a spot, since they gave a lesson in not giving up, that only comes from teams that are hungry for glory like they are. With this, the Spanish capital joins the exclusive league of cities that have put two teams into the final four. In the other Wednesday match, defending champions Bayern Munich had the advantage from the away goal at Old Trafford, but the surprising draw showed that United weren’t going to make it easy for the German titans. The English side were able to resist for about an hour to Bayern Munich’s constant ball possession, but Evra scored an absolute stunner from outside the box after a cross reached him completely open. This didn’t last long, since a couple of minutes later Croatian striker Mandžukić left his marker behind and headed the ball into the back of the net. With the quarter-final completely leveled, Bayern Munich took advantage of the ball and United weren’t strong enough to avoid a defeat. Robben found himself inside the box and assisted Müller, who beat De Gea with a slight touch. Things were looking bad for United and their dreams were shattered by a fantastic individual play by Robben, who got away from a couple of players and from inside the box reached De Gea’s net. 3-1 and the defending champions make it to the final four. The UCL quarter-finals were a true statement of why Europe has some of the world’s best football clubs. With the semi-final draw happening on Friday the 10th, the world had a taste of epic battles so far in the competition, and the rest of it will hands down continue to be a great spectacle.

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