The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals finished in dramatic fashion last week. The semi-finals are now set as we are only four matches away from the Champions League final on May 26th in Kyiv. Below are the headlines and highlights that emerged from the quarterfinals and a brief analysis of the past and present matchups going into the semifinals.
Special Moments Encapsulate Breathtaking Ties
It seemed that the four quarter-final contests were all but decided following a few lopsided victories in the first legs. The second leg games were certainly not a formality, though, as three out of the four ties were decided by a goal or less. The parity, along with underdogs of Roma and Liverpool emerging, was significant. In recent years the later stages of this tournament have been dominated by the clubs with the biggest payrolls.
This is why we love soccer; unpredictable, unscripted drama, unfolding in real-time, resulting in beautiful moments for some and gut-wrenching despair for others. Juventus fans can attest to this roller coaster of emotions as they experienced the highs and lows throughout their comeback against Real Madrid before being cruelly eliminated.
There were some truly incredible moments in the round:
Ronaldo's remarkable bicycle kick and the standing ovation from Juventus fans
The chaotic ending at the Bernabeu including Buffon’s red card and Ronaldo’s last minute penalty to send Real through:
The amazing atmosphere at Anfield, Sane’s disallowed goal, more Mo Salah magic
The unbelievable scenes in Rome and crushing disappointment in Barcelona
The first leg battle between Bayern Munich and Sevilla
Individual moments of skill can decide games, but the collective team efforts of Roma and Liverpool to outmatch two of the most dominant teams in Europe this year in Barcelona and Manchester City was a tactical master class.
Jurgen Klopp summed up Liverpool’s performance and the Champions League well: “this competition is quite fair and I really think a normal final would have been Manchester City against Barcelona, and now they are both out. I really think [City] are the best team in the world at the moment. But I knew we could beat them. But that doesn’t make us the better team, it’s football. It’s the cool thing in the game, that it’s still possible.”
The Unthinkable Comeback
Neutrals that tuned into the second leg of Liverpool-City missed out on an incredible night in Rome. And while plenty of special moments occurred in this round, the scenes at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome will forever be remembered in Roma’s history.
Dzecko’s away goal at the Nou Camp proved invaluable in the first leg 4-1 loss. And it was he who scored the first goal that sparked the comeback quest in the second leg. A De Rossi penalty – redeeming the disastrous first leg own goal – cut the aggregate deficit to one goal before an 83rd minute goal capped off the unthinkable comeback to give Roma the win against the Catalan giants.
Semi-Final Draw Recreates the 1984 Final and a Champions League Classic
For the first time in eight years, no nation has more than one team in the semi-finals as the four clubs from England, Italy, Germany and Spain went into the pot.
Liverpool v. Roma
Liverpool vs. Roma matches up two underdogs from the quarterfinals and two Boston-area owners. Liverpool advanced to their first semi-final since 2008/09. Liverpool would move ahead of Bayern and Barcelona to six European Cup titles with victory in Kyiv. Only AC Milan (7) and Real Madrid (12) have managed more.
Roma have not played in a European Cup semi-final since 1984, when they faced Scottish side, Dundee United. After beating Dundee 3-0 at home, then losing 0-2 in Scotland, the Giallorossi advanced to the European Cup final on aggregate.
The 1984 final was held at Roma’s home ground, the Stadio Olimpico, in front of nearly 70,000 fans, and Liverpool was the opponent. Phil Neal, one of the most successful English players of all time, found the first goal in the 13th minute. Roma responded in the 42nd with a goal from Roberto Pruzzo. After 120 minutes, the 1-1 stalemate remained and the match went to penalties. Steve Nicol sent the first penalty over the crossbar, giving Roma the advantage as Di Bartolomei stepped up and delivered. But Roma, facing Liverpool’s crazy goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, failed to convert two penalties and Liverpool finished their remaining four. Liverpool emerged victorious, winning their fourth European Cup.
Bayern Munich v. Real Madrid
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will meet for the 25th and 26th time in Europe, making it the most-played UEFA competition tie. In their 11 previous knockout stage meetings, the Spaniards have won six times to German’s five. The Bavarians have the edge over Los Blancos in the six semi-finals in which they’ve faced each other, advancing to the finals on four of those occasions. If they win it all, Real Madrid would become the first club since Bayern (1974–76) to claim three successive European Cups.
An in-form Cristiano Ronaldo could once again be decisive in this fixture. He has scored seven goals in his last three matches against Bayern Munich. The matchup between Jupp Heynckes and Zinedine Zidane is almost as interesting as the match itself. Both clubs will be totally prepared for the contest.
Fixtures and Predictions:
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
Prediction: Real Madrid (3-2 aggregate)
Leg 1: Wednesday, April 25th, Allianz Arena
Leg 2: Tuesday, May 1st, Santiago Bernabeu
Liverpool vs. Roma
Prediction: Liverpool (4-2 agg.)
Leg 1: Tuesday, April 24th, Anfield
Leg 2: Wednesday, May 2nd, Stadio Olimpico
Author: Mike Daly