The 2016-17 UEFA Champions League resumed this week, as the first legs in the Round of 16 began across Europe. Several of the world’s top football clubs were in action, with more than one surprising result along the way.
We analyze the outcomes and what to expect in the second legs next month.[Roy]
SL Benfica 1 – Borussia Dortmund 0 (Tuesday, February 14th)
Portuguese champions Benfica earned a crucial 1-0 result Tuesday in the first leg against Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund. The home side now brings a one-goal advantage to the deciding match in Germany, after an impressive defensive display earned a clean sheet against a high-powered Dortmund attack.
Greek international striker Kostas Mitroglou scored the match-winner in the 48th minute. Despite holding the majority of possession (70%-30%) and more than doubling the hosts’ shots (14-5), Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel was left frustrated by his team’s output.
Forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had an especially difficult evening, badly missing a penalty kick in the second half.
With the aggregate lead heading into the second leg, expect Benfica to keep numbers behind the ball in an effort to once again slow down Dortmund’s talented front-line.
Paris Saint-Germain 4 – Barcelona 0 (Tuesday, February 14th)
One of the truly stunning recent results throughout European football played out on Tuesday, as Paris Saint-Germain secured a 4-0 victory over Barcelona at the Parc des Princes. PSG will take a commanding lead into the Camp Nou for the second leg.
Barcelona looked fatigued and short on ideas, as their sensational attacking front was unable to find a breakthrough. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar all turned in subpar performances.
PSG took to the field with passion, energy and was in full control throughout. Angel Di Maria (18’) and Julian Draxler (40’) opened the scoring in the first half, with a second strike from Di Maria (55’) and one from forward Edinson Cavani (72’) capping off a memorable night in the French capital.
If any club has the capability of overturning a four-goal deficit, it is certainly the Blaugrana. But Paris Saint-Germain has put themselves in a fantastic position to reach the Champions League quarter-final round.
Real Madrid CF 3 – Napoli 1 (Wednesday, February 15th)
Champions League titleholders Real Madrid began the knockout round successfully with a 3-1 home victory over Napoli on Wednesday. The match gave supporters at the Santiago Bernabeu anxious moments early, but Los Blancos eventually saw out a comfortable result.
A wonderful curling strike from Lorenzo Insigne (8’) gave Napoli a quick first-half lead and a crucial away goal in the series. However, Real Madrid would put pressure on the Italian side almost immediately.
Forward Karim Benzema levelled the match soon after the opening goal, with Toni Kroos (49’) and Casemiro (54’) adding strikes in the second half to seal the victory. Cristiano Ronaldo caused issues for Napoli’s defense for most of the evening, picking up an assist on Kroos’ goal with a magnificent pass from the right side of the penalty area.
Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane will be pleased with the result and the club should feel confident for the deciding match in Naples.
Bayern Munich 5 – Arsenal 1 (Wednesday, February 15th)
A night of horrors at the Allianz Arena left more than a few Arsenal supporters with a sense of déjà vu, as Bayern Munich dominated the Gunners in a 5-1 win. The result leaves manager Arsene Wenger’s side with a mountain to climb in the second leg.
The first half saw the clubs all square after 45 minutes at 1-1, with goals from Arjen Robben (11’) for Bayern and Alexis Sanchez (30’) for Arsenal. But the second half belonged to the Bundesliga title-holders, with seemingly little resistance from the visitors.
Robert Lewandowski (53’), Thiago Alcantara (56’, 63’) and Thomas Muller (88’) scored to all but assure Bayern Munich’s place in the quarter-final round. Each strike seemed to sink Arsenal further and further, as an embarrassing evening was brought to an end only by the final whistle. Bayern midfielder Arturo Vidal was outstanding, controlling possession and covering much of the field.
Injuries were picked up for the likes of defender Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper David Ospina as well, giving Arsenal slim hopes for the deciding match in North London next month.