The Champions League is the largest club tournament in European football. On display are the best players in the world, along with all the glitz and glamor that football has to offer. The theme music, goal celebrations, and flashy boots – this grand stage provides the biggest moments.
The Knockout Stage is a favorite for many, as it is the first part of the tournament to move to a two game, head-to head competition. Each fixture is played over two legs, with the team scoring the most over the 180 minutes advancing. Away goals are the tie breaker, and so there is always something to play for.
Here is our recap from the first game of the Champions League Knockout Stage courtesy of guest words from Tim Frechette.
Manchester United 0 – PSG 2
PSG thoroughly outclassed United in this high-scale matchup of two of the biggest clubs in Europe. Without Neymar or Cavani, Paris still looked the better club, especially in the second half.
One of the talking points that emerged from the game was whether United Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is overmatched when facing big clubs in high stakes games. He has done a wonderful job in the Premier League since taking over, but this blowout loss to PSG raises questions about his tactics when the stakes are high.
Paul Pogba, rejuvenated in form since Solskjaer has taken over, had two yellow cards and was sent over in the final stages. United already had a tall enough task to overcome a two- goal deficit, and it will be even more challenging with Pogba out for the second game.
Liverpool 0 – Bayern Munich 0
What was billed as the tie of the Knockout Phase turned out to be a yawner, at least in the first tie. Liverpool, decimated by injuries at their defense, turned in a good performance at the backline, even if shaky at times. They had plenty of early chances, but Bayern rode the wave out and escaped Anfield with a 0-0 draw.
Bayern look to be the slight favorites as they take the second tie back to Munich. However, with the tie all even, an away goal from Liverpool would be clutch, meaning Bayern would need 2 goals to go through. While cagey in the first fixture, the second tie has all the makings of a fantastic match.
Tottenham 3 – Borussia Dortmund 0
Going into this matchup, it looked to be one of the most evenly matched ties of the Knockout Round. Dortmund sat atop of their league in Germany, and Tottenham has been in fine form in the English League.
With both clubs missing key players up front, Tottenham pulled away in the second half for a defiant 3-0 victory. The margin of victory all but assures they will pass through to the Quarter-finals. It will take nothing short of a miracle for Dortmund to outscore Tottenham by 3 goals in the second tie, especially with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli set to return.
Atletico Madrid 2 – Juventus 0
Atletico spoiled Christiano Ronaldo’s return to Madrid with a 2-0 victory over Juventus. The Italian’s clubs renowned defense crumbled in the second half, with Ronaldo himself allowing the second goal in with a deflection off his arm.
This game could have easily been 4-0, with VAR pulling back an Atletico goal, and downgrading a penalty award. Ronaldo and company never could get anything going up front. They will now need their superstar to pull a rabbit out his hat during their second leg tie.
Schalke 04 2 – Manchester City 3
After the first half, this was starting to look like the upset of the Knockout phase. Schalke, a team sitting in the bottom half of the German league, scored two penalties, giving them a comfortable lead at half time.
Even with a second half sending off of Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City rallied with two late goals from Leroy Sane and Rahemm Sterling. Sane’s strike from a free kick was masterful, while Sterling’s winner was even more dramatic. City now takes the one goal advantage and 3 away goals back home where they look the strong favorites to move through.
Ajax 1 – Real Madrid 2
Ajax put up a really strong showing, at times looking the likely winners. Their first goal was pulled back thanks to VAR, but even so, they looked to be adequate challengers to a Madrid side that clearly looked a bit off their game.
In the end, goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Assensio saw Madrid come out on top. The two away goals for Real could come into play as the two sides go back to Madrid for the second leg. Without an obvious goal scorer up front for Ajax, it is an uphill battle to say the least.
Roma 2 – Porto 1
Nicolo Zaniolo scored twice to give Roma the 2-1 advantage going into the second match. The 19 year old, who has looked fantastic in the Italian Serie A league, netted his first two Champions League goals.
Porto, who ironically were undefeated in Champions League play this season, pulled back a lucky but valuable away goal. Heading home, they still have plenty to play for.
That being said, Roma have looked to be the favorites from the beginning, and a strong showing from them in the second tie will see them through.
Lyon 0 – Barcelona 0