The second legs of the Champions League quarterfinals offered plenty of action as German, Spanish and Italian league leaders along with title holders Real Madrid reached the semifinals. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg against FC Porto, Bayern Munich staged a stunning comeback at the Allianz Arena with their breathtaking football thrashing FC Porto 6-1 and making it 7-4 on aggregate. Barcelona, meanwhile cruised into the semifinals with an easy 2-0 victory and 5-1 on aggregate at Camp Nou against Paris Saint-Germain courtesy Neymar’s brace. On Wednesday night, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who came in for injured Karim Benzema handed Real Madrid their first victory against their local rivals Atletico Madrid in 7 matches scoring the only goal of the two legged tie sending the defending champions into semifinals. Juventus held onto their 1-0 lead from the first leg to reach semifinals for the first time in 12 years at the cost of AS Monaco after playing out a goalless draw at the Stade Louis II. While the semifinal progression have eased pressure on some teams, for one it has brought a sense of belief.
Bayern Blow Away Porto and Doubters To Ease Pressure off Guardiola
Pep Guardiola was facing one of his greatest challenges as a manager on Wednesday. He had only 14 players who were fully fit with six of his regulars out with injury and a schedule with a match to be played every fourth day. With the tight schedule posing a danger of increasing the injury risk to players, the cluba s medical staff resigned due to trust issues with the management to heat up the already tense atmosphere. But nothing mattered once the Bavarians stepped onto the pitch in Allianz Arena. Portoa s defence went haywire once Thiago Alcantara planted the header into the net and there was no looking back. Bayern moved the ball around like Porto players werena t even present on the pitch. Visiting goalkeeper Fabiano could do nothing but pick up the ball from the net to put it back for kick off. The win sends out a statement to Bayerna s opponents to never underestimate them even in a crisis. Thomas Muller just showed how good he is when it comes to big occasions with a brilliant performance and leading the post match celebrations from the stands with a megaphone. Bayerna s attacking department displayed their ruthless efficiency with quick passing coupled with deadly finishing. Thiago Alcantara showed why Guardiola rates him so highly as he orchestrated the midfield. The win lifts most of the pressure from Guardiolaa s shoulders but there are other challenges ahead on the domestic front with a semifinal clash against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal. Even if they reach the cup final, they are most likely to face Wolfsburg who are their toughest opponents in the Bundesliga. Irrespective of the team they draw against in Fridaya s semifinal draw and their opponents in the DFB Pokal, avoiding further injuries and maintaining the same level of performance should be Guardiolaa s prime agenda.
First Leg Enough To Eliminate PSG For Treble Chasing Barcelona
Barcelona are playing their best football under Luis Enrique which they were missing in the past two seasons. The Blaugrana have found their knack of scoring freely with the attacking triumvirate of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi forging a deadly partnership upfront. On Wednesday they made light work of PSG who looked just as uninspired in the first leg. The French side were already facing an uphill task after suffering a 3-1 loss in Paris last week. The loss of captain Thiago Silva further left a hole in the central defence and his partner David Luiz put in a woeful first half display despite being humiliated by Suarez in the first leg. The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti didna t have any impact on Laurent Blanca s men as they lacked the drive to turn things around at the Camp Nou. Ibrahimovic was short of help from his teammates as a result Barca never looked pressurized by the PSG attack. Return of Andres Iniesta couldna t have come at a better time for Luis Enrique as the Spaniard made a great comeback into the Barca midfield with a beautiful assist to Neymara s first goal. Lionel Messi was not at his usual best but Neymar stepped up on the night to become the top scorer against the French side in the Champions League and making it 30 goals for the season in all competitions for Barcelona. With Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Mascherano fully fit Enrique has plenty of options in midfield whereas other teams on the domestic front and in Europe are facing injury crisis. They are already in the Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Club a match which can already be counted as silverware given their form. If the Catalans avoid any possible hiccup further down the season, they are very much on course to win La Liga and the Champions League as well.
Chicharito Medicine For Ancelottia s Recent Headaches albeit temporarily
Diego Simeone might have lost the Champions League final in Lisbon last year, but since that day the Argentine was the last man Carlo Ancelotti wished to face. It started when Atletico defeated Real Madrid to clinch the Spanish Super Cup, then they eliminated the holders out of the Copa Del Rey in the Last-16 and then inflicted a 4-0 humiliation on Los Blancos which was their heaviest loss to Atletico. The tie was in balance after both the teams played out a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon in the first leg. But after 76th minute sending off of Arda Turan, it was clear that Atleti were trying to force out extra time. Simeonea s decision to play Saul in place of Gabi in the midfield didna t work. In form forward Antoine Griezmann also had to be substituted with Raul Garcia as the Rojiblancos were ineffectual in the final third. Meanwhile, his Italian counterpart was without the services of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema due to injuries. The European Champions were also without Marcelo who was suspended for the tie after receiving a second booking in the first leg. Atletico failed to keep their cool as the clock ticked and paid the price for it. Arda Turan went for an unnecessary challenge on Sergio Ramos and referee had no option but pull out a second yellow. Real cashed in their numerical advantage and in the 88th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo exchanged passes on the edge of the box with James Rodriguez drawing Jan Oblak towards him. The Portuguese then poked the ball towards Hernandez who then finished from close range to send Real Madrid into semis. The crucial goal would have assured the Mexican a starting berth in Reala s lineup and Ancelotti a temporary replacement for Karim Benzema but the relief faded away within minutes as Hernandez went down to the ground clutching his thigh and had to walk off the pitch. Los Blancos have looked far from their best when Modric was injured and their over reliance on the Croatian resulted in a drop in their performances and subsequently lost their top position to Barcelona earlier this season. If they need to successfully defend La Decima and keep up with Barcelona for the La Liga crown, Ancelotti has to find a solution to steady the ship to keep chances of a double alive.
Allegri And Juventus Give Italian Football a Sense of Revival In Europe
Juventus held onto their first leg advantage of 1-0 to reach the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2003. The Turin giants last appeared in the knockout stages in 2012-13 season quarterfinals when they were defeated 4-0 by eventual winners Bayern Munich. The Serie A champions went into the second leg at the Stade Louis II with AS Monaco still very much in the tie. But Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri opted for a defensive setup to protect the slender lead rather than scoring a goal to kill the tie off. Carlos Tevez went close in the 7th minute, but the Bianconeri were mostly inactive in the attack as they were happy to bank on their defence. Monaco were denied a clear penalty for a foul on Geoffrey Kondogbia but Juventus displayed their defensive strength by limiting the home side to a few clear cut chances. The second half was similar to the first half as the Italian champions looked lazy on the counter attack. Past the hour mark, the game turned into a dull affair as goalmouth action dried up. With this victory Juventus became the first Italian club in five years to progress to the semifinals of Champions League with Inter Milan being the last Serie A side to enter the semifinals in 2010. Poor financial planning by big clubs like AC Milan took the sheen out of Italian football. Rudi Garciaa s AS Roma have resurfaced with a second placed finish last season but they are yet to reach the level of consistency to compete in Europe. The Serie A was deemed boring with Juventus dominating the league but falling flat when it comes to European competitions. Many questioned the Turin sidea s ambition when they appointed Allegri who was sacked by AC Milan to replace the charismatic Antonio Conte. His previous spat with club icon Andrea Pirlo which forced the midfielder to leave AC Milan also made people talk under hushed tones. But since his appointment, the former Rossoneri boss have only taken Juventus a step further keeping them in the race for a treble. But the Champions League semifinal will not be easy for the Old Lady against three clubs who have their names engraved on the trophy in the past four years.