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Champions League Quarter-Finals: Review & Reaction

Champions League

After the conclusion of the first legs of the Champions League quarter-finals, we reviewed how the English representatives got on.

 

Liverpool vs. Porto

Liverpool barely got out of second gear as they cruised to a 2-0 win over Portuguese champions Porto. If anything, Jurgen Klopp will be disappointed that the Reds didn’t score more than two, which would have completely ended Porto’s chances in the tie. As it is though, the Merseysiders will have to put in a professional performance at the Estádio do Dragão to ensure qualification.

 

 

The result was barely in doubt after Naby Keita gave Liverpool the lead in the fifth minute, his deflected shot leaving the Porto keeper stranded as it sailed into the top corner.

20 minutes later Liverpool doubled their advantage as a clever through ball from Jordan Henderson set Trent Alexander-Arnold loose in the box. The full-back pulled the ball across the face of the goal, providing Roberto Firmino with the easiest of chances, and the Brazilian slotted the ball into an empty net.

Porto didn’t give up and there was controversy minutes later when VAR was called upon to check for a potential penalty kick, after Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson seemingly pushed the ball onto the arm of Alexander-Arnold. However it was ultimately judged to be ‘ball to hand’ and nothing was awarded as a result.

 

 

It was Liverpool who will feel as though they should have extended their lead though. Mo Salah and Firmino were guilty of spurning easy chances whilst Sadio Mane had a goal chalked off for offside.

Liverpool will take their two goal advantage to the away leg knowing that, whilst they have one foot in the semi-finals, they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas quite yet.

 

Tottenham vs. Man City

The internet was awash with jokes about a Tottenham advert that called White Hart Lane ‘the only place to watch UEFA Champions League in London’ last summer, as it looked as though the Londoners would be knocked out before their revamped stadium opened.

It is Spurs who have had the last laugh though, as not only did they stage a miraculous comeback to escape their group, but they subsequently treated fans to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in their first European game in the ground.

City were awarded a penalty in the 12th minute after a VAR review judged Danny Rose to have blocked a shot with his arm. Up stepped Sergio Aguero to try and give City the lead.

Hugo Lloris’ had been in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently after his blunder against Liverpool resulted in a late own goal that cost Tottenham the match and kept Jurgen Klopp’s side in the title race, much to the irritation of Manchester City fans.

The Sky Blues won’t be any fonder of the Frenchman now, after he correctly guessed which way Aguero was going and palmed the penalty away to safety.

 

 

Having soaked up City’s pressure for much of the first half, Tottenham began to find their way back into the match after the break, with Heung-Min Son in particular having a couple of half chances.

However, the 56th minute brought a sight that no Spurs fan would want to see, as Harry Kane limped down the tunnel after rolling his ankle in a challenge with England teammate Fabian Delph.

It was to be Spurs’ day though and the stadium erupted in the 78th minute when Son punished a sleeping City defence by scoring the opening, decisive goal. Christian Erikson had put the South Korean through but a poor touch saw the ball nearly run out of play. Whilst City players were protesting for a goal kick, Son brought the ball back into play and slotted it in for the win.

 

 

Spurs still face a daunting trip to the Etihad in the return leg and their qualification is by no means assured. However, the single goal lead and clean sheet gives them a fantastic opportunity to progress.

 

Manchester United vs. Barcelona

United will need to stage another PSG-esque salvage job if they’re going to qualify against Barcelona, as the Catalan giants edged the first leg 1-0 through a Luke Shaw own goal.

Even the most ardent United fan would struggle to argue that they deserved anything from the first leg, their passive approach gifted Barcelona 62% of the possession with the Red Devils seemingly happy to provide a threat mostly on the counter attack.

 

 

The only goal of the game came early. Messi found himself in possession of the ball on the left and looped an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan’s effort looked as though it was heading wide of the goal until it glanced off Luke Shaw and deflected into the net. Initially the goal had been flagged as offside by the linesman but, after a VAR referral, was correctly awarded.

Shaw’s night went from bad to worse as the England international picked up a third yellow card of the competition, after hauling down Lionel Messi, which will rule him out of the second leg.

Messi had a rough time at the hands of the United defenders generally and was left with a bloodied nose after a shoulder barge from Chris Smalling that left the Argentine flat on the turf.

 

 

United’s late recovery against PSG in the previous round will give them heart that the tie isn’t over yet, though it is undeniable that Barcelona are now huge favourites to progress.

 

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