This year’s quarter-final tie-ups possess a healthy mix of old and fresh. Thus, we were able to relish two very different kinds of matches on the first night of the first leg of UCL Quarter Finals. On one hand, Juventus hosted Real Madrid in Turin in a bid to avenge their 4-1 defeat in the showpiece showdown of this very competition last year, whereas Sevilla, who have reached this stage for the first ever time in history, hosted Bayern Munich in a match which went very differently than anticipated. There was a lot of zing, some great team moments and a pinch of divine individual magic too. Let’s round the action up.
In Turin, things were up and running just a couple of minutes post kick-off, as Cristiano Ronaldo, who also set a record by scoring in 10 consecutive Champions League games, put a cross from Isco away neatly to score his fastest ever CL goal and put the visitors ahead. The home side retaliated and save for the goal, were the better side during the first half. Paulo Dybala, Rodrigo Bentancour and Gonzalo Higuain missed chances to score, with the latter denied by a superhuman save from Keylar Navas in the 22nd minute. Toni Kroos was also denied a chance to double Real’s lead by the crossbar.
The Old Lady continued to press forward during the second half, but the whole stadium watched in astonishment as Ronaldo produced yet another brilliant individual moment by scoring through a near-perfect overhead kick. The five-foot dash and the seven-foot jump brought Juve fans to their feet as they solemnly clapped for their opponent’s talisman. Soon, Paulo Dybala earned a second yellow card for a high foot on Carvajal, post which tie was pretty much over. But Marcelo added more sheen to the scoreline after a clever one-two with Ronaldo, who turned provider this time. Ronaldo did miss a chance to make it four in stoppage time, but I don’t think anyone will be talking about that.
Back in Real’s home country of Spain, newbies Sevilla really needed a win after letting a two-goal against league rivals Barcelona go to waste over the weekend, whereas Bayern rode to Spain on the back of a rousing 6-0 victory against arch-rivals Borrusia Dortmund. But the German side seemed to have left its attacking shoes back home, as they lacked teeth in the final third and barely made an impact. Sevilla were the better team throughout the first half, with incisive attacks and multiple breaks. Pablo Sarabia – who had earlier missed a golden opportunity to bring the hosts in the lead – broke the deadlock 33 minutes in, but the visitors scraped an undeserved equalizer through a Franick Ribery shot which deflected off Jesus Navas a mere five minutes later. Bayern were a much better unit in the second half, with sustained pressure on the home side. This eventually led to a 66th minute winner when Thiago headed a Ribery cross from the far post and it deflected off yet another man in white – Escudero – right into the back of the net. Conceding two goals in such a fashion put a damper on the spirits of the home crowd and the match was mostly uneventful after. And while this wasn’t a vintage display from the Bundesliga giants, coach Heyneckes will be happy to win his record twelfth consecutive game and head home with an away win.
So, in a nutshell, The holders now effectively have a foot in the semis and Ronaldo has the highest goal tally in Europe. The Sevilla – Bayern tie is still wide open. We’ll have to see what transpires next week. Things are heating up at the business end of the season. Hope tonight is as eventful as last night was!