Spurs & United through but holders Real Madrid crash out of UCL
This week brought a host of drama in the Champions League, as Tottenham knocked Dortmund out, and holders Real Madrid crashed out of the competition after being beaten 4-1 by Ajax. Manchester United also turned around a 2-0 defeat in the first leg in dramatic fashion to knock PSG out, thanks to a late Marcus Rashford penalty, while Porto eliminated Roma in the other match.
Madrid have won four of the last five UCL competitions, but this is their earliest exit from the competition in nine years. Madrid have been champions for 1,012 days and their pedigree in the competition over the last five seasons has been nothing short of remarkable. That has been brought to an abrupt end though, after Ajax outplayed and outclassed Madrid in the Bernabau on Tuesday evening, emerging 4-1 winners on the night, 5-2 on aggregate.
Tottenhan meanwhile weathered the storm that Borussia Dortmund brought and made it safely through to the last sixteen. Dortmund came out flying, but not only did Tottenham make it through, they won the match by a single goal.
Tottenham become first English club through to quarter-finals
Spurs became the first English club to make it through to the last sixteen this season. Spurs beat Borussia Dortmund in Germany 1-0 to go through 4-0 on aggregate.
It could have been different. Dortmund came out with all guns blazing, knowing the task at hand was overturning a three goal deficit after losing to Spurs in London.
Dortmund were simply too much for Spurs to handle for the opening 45 minutes, with the away side barely able to string a few passes together. But Dortmund couldn’t make their dominance count. Not that they didn’t create chances.
Both Ben Davies and Jan Vertonghen, Spurs’ hero from the first leg, made last ditch blocks to prevent Dortmund scoring. Hugo Lloris, who saved a penalty and in the process a point for Spurs in the EPL last weekend, was also called upon to make a number of saves. Dortmund could have scored three, but instead, the teams went into the break at 0-0.
The second half started in the same way as the first. Dortmund raced up the pitch, and Marco Reus whipped a low cross across the box, but no-one was on the receiving end.
Then came the hammer blow. As the ball rebounded to Sissoko in the Spurs’ midfield, some fantastic movement and positional awareness by Harry Kane ensured the striker was onside. Sissoko threaded the ball through, where Kane, one on one with the goalkeeper, was never going to miss. Dortmund deserved so much more, but an away goal meant that the home team now needed five goals, and at that point, the game was over.
Manchester United make history with comeback
Few people gave Manchester United even a chance coming into this match. The Red Devils had lost the first leg at home 2-0, were without 9 first-team players due to injury, and Paul Pogba was suspended.
No side had lost a Champions League tie after winning the first away leg 2-0 before Wednesday night. PSG now hold the dubious honour of being the first and while they were very impressive in the first half, the hosts only have themselves to blame. The PSG project, despite the millions invested over the last eight years, has failed once again to progress in the UCL.
United got off to the perfect start after an horrific error by Thilo Kehrer put Romelu Lukaku through on goal, and the Belgian coolly converted after just two minutes. PSG were not going to stand for that though, and turned on the pressure, eventually scoring through Bernat, then continuing to dominate the half. However, despite PSG’s incredible dominance, United led at half-time, after another individual error, this time by Buffon, allowed Lukaku in again.
The second half was tense and a change in formation by Solksjaer saw United back into the game, but the hosts were still the better team. It was still a nervy affair for PSG, who then went on to concede a penalty in the 89th minute. VAR was consulted for four minutes by the referee, who then awarded the penalty, which was then converted by Marcus Rashford, who didn’t let the taunts of the PSG players and the huge wait get to him.
It seemed almost impossible that United would make it through, but despite the referee allowing play to go on until the 99th minute, they did just that. Solksjaer was forced to field a bench almost entirely of teenagers, many of which made it onto the pitch.
Real Madrid eliminated by Ajax
Spanish giants Real Madrid were shocked by Ajax in Tuesday’s other match. Despite a 2-1 advantage after victory in Amsterdam, Madrid were outplayed by the visitors who thoroughly deserved victory. Ironically, captain Sergio Ramos watched from the box, after appearing to deliberately pick up a yellow card in the first leg that saw him miss that fixture.
Tuesday’s defeat was the culmination of a disastrous week for Madrid, who were essentially eliminated from three competitions in the last seven days, after two el Classico defeats to Barcelona last week knocked Madrid out of the Copa del Rey and effectively killed their La Liga title hopes. All of those matches were played at home, subjecting fans to three consecutive home defeats.
Ajax took the lead within ten minutes, after some great play by the impressive Dujan Tadic set up Hakim Ziyech. The lead was doubled ten minutes later, when David Neres put Ajax two ahead.
Future Barcelona player Frankie de Jong showed Real just what they have missed out on when they failed to get the Dutchman’s signature. The midfielder was fantastic, dictating play, and helped set up Ajax’s third in the second half.
Now behind on away goals, Madrid needed three goals, but they answered immediately, with Ascensio scoring a low effort into the far corner. However, Madrid once again needed three goals almost immediately after that, with an incredible free-kick from Lasse Schöne finding the far corner. The stadium emptied out almost as quickly as Madrid’s hopes of progressing.
Elimination in the second round is the earliest exit in nine years for Madrid, and has been described my local media as the “worst night on record”. It has effectively ended Madrid’s season, with the club having little left to play for.
It has also brought to an end an incredible record of European domination. Madrid have been European champions for over 1,000 days, winning four of the last five competitions. It’s a record the harks back to Di Stéfano’s Madrid team that won the first five Champions Leagues and will be remembered fondly by fans. But it has been brought to an end in cruel style.
Is it the end of an era? Some newspapers and fans fear so. The writing was without doubt on the wall, after a very poor start and record domestically this season. Madrid famously sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus before the start of the season, while manager Zidane also left.
Julen Lopetegui was appointed to replace Zidane in dramatic fashion from his job as manager of Spain, just days before the start of the 2018 World Cup. However, after a very poor start to the season, Lopetegui was then sacked after Madrid were demolished 6-1 by Barcelona in October after just a few months in charge. Neither Ronaldo nor Zidane have been adequately replaced, and investment has not been made wisely. It will be interesting to see where Madrid go from here.