Champions League Round-Up GW5
Five-time champions, Barcelona, were the highest profile side to not progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League, as a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich sent them into the Europa League for a second consecutive season. Alongside the Catalonians is Ajax, who were eliminated at the hands of Liverpool whose quickfire treble blew the Amsterdam outfit away. Mohamed Salah continued his fine form in front of goal as he netted in the 42nd minute, with Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliot getting in on the act to put the Scousers 3-0 up in the 52nd minute. It looks like Juventus and Sevilla will be competing in the Europa League too, as they both sit in third and on paper should finish above those at the bottom of their respective groups.
There was late drama at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Spurs were denied a late winner that would have qualified them for the knock-out stages. Marcus Edwards marked his return to the club he represented at youth level with a goal as the Englishman drove forward and released a strike that arrowed into the far corner to put the visitors 1-0 up in the 22nd minute. Sporting Lisbon were made to pay for missing two golden opportunities as Rodrigo Bentancur headed home from a corner with ten minutes remaining. The crowd went wild in the 95th minute as Harry Kane wheeled off in celebration after putting the ball in the back of the net. It looked like Spurs had done it, but VAR had other ideas. Ivan Perisic whipped in a cross to the back-post, where Emerson Royal met it and headed it across the face of goal. The ball took a deflection and fell in the path of Harry Kane, who finished smartly past Adan to put the hosts 2-1 up in the dying moments. However, VAR deemed the goal to be offside after a four-minute review was conducted, meaning Spurs had not qualified just yet. Antonio Conte was sent off for his protests and personified every single Tottenham fan across the globe.
There was also late drama in Group B, as Atletico Madrid faced Bayer Leverkusen at the Wanda Metropolitano. The stakes were high as Atletico needed a win to stand any chance of progressing to the knock-out stages. The visitors took the lead through Moussa Diaby, who finished brilliantly with a curling effort from inside the area to silence the Atleti faithful. Hope was restored though, as Yannick Carrasco fired home from the edge of the box to equalise. Leverkusen were here to spoil the party, and went ahead in the 29th minute through on-loan winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi, who calmly finished through a wall of bodies to restore the lead for Xabi Alonso’s side. Five minutes after the interval it was all square again, as Rodrigo De Paul curled the ball into the far corner with finesse to keep the dream alive. The closing stages of the game were where it mattered and this one had it all. The referee blew his full-time whistle, but VAR discovered there was a handball in the German box, meaning Atletico Madrid had a penalty! The stadium erupted; this could be it. But it was not to be! Carrasco had already scored one, but he could not double his tally. The Belgian took a deep breath and stood tall; this was his moment. His penalty was poor and
was saved. But the ‘keeper could only palm it back into the box. The rebound was headed goalward and looked to be going in, but it rattled the crossbar and deflected back into the danger area again! Again, it was met by a Madrid player, but Simeone’s side could not force the ball home as the ball was blocked on the line and deflected out of play. The full-time whistle was blown again, but this time it was final. Atletico Madrid were out.
PSG booked their place in the knockout stages with an emphatic destruction of Maccabi Haifa. Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both completed a brace, whilst Neymar, Carlos Soler and an own goal completed the thrashing of the Israelites. Elsewhere in Group H, Juventus fell to a dramatic 4-3 defeat to Benfica. The Portuguese side drew first blood via Antonio Silva’s powerful header. Moise Kean equalised for the Old Lady after a corner caused chaos in the area, leaving the forward to volley in from on the line. The referee pointed to the spot after judging Juan Cuadrado to have handled the ball inside the area. Joao Mario stepped up and made no mistake from twelve yards to put the hosts 2-1 up. Rafa Silva then added a third with an unbelievable finish from inside the area that required an obscene level of skill. Silva then doubled his tally with the cheekiest of chips, perfectly weighting the ball. Arkadiusz Milik got one back for Juve with a smart volley, and Weston McKennie scored a third to create a nervy last ten minutes. However, Juventus crashed out of the competition.
Real Madrid fell to a shock defeat away at RB Leipzig as the reigning champions unbeaten run in the tournament was ended. Josko Gvardiol broke the deadlock with a free header after Courtois made a fingertip save. Leipzig’s surprise lead was extended five minutes later when star-man, Christopher Nkunku smashed the ball in after the ball dropped to him following a corner. On the stroke of half-time, Vinicius Junior reduced the deficit with a pinpoint header that flew into the inside netting. Timo Werner snuck in round the back of Los Blancos’ defence and tapped in to secure the three points for the Europa League holders. Rodrygo converted a penalty in the 94th minute, but it was not enough as Real Madrid left Germany in defeat.
Elsewhere, Chelsea defeated RB Salzburg 2-1 to secure their place in the next round. Sevilla beat Copenhagen 3-0, but it looks like the Spaniards will be competing in the Europa League. Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City played out a goalless draw after Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty. AC Milan thrashed Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 to all-but secure their place in the knock-outs. Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk were locked in a 1-1 stalemate after the Ukrainians squandered an open goal in the dying moments of the game. Napoli mauled Rangers 4-0 in Naples to further sink the Glaswegians. Club Brugge lost for the first time this UCL campaign as they were defeated 4-0 by Porto.
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