Champions League Concludes Round of 16


Porto (pictured above) celebrated a surprise elimination of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus in the Round of 16. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Over the past couple of weeks, the second legs of the Champions League round of 16 took place, with each team fighting to qualify for the quarterfinals. As a reminder, whichever team wins on aggregate will advance into the quarterfinals. If the aggregate is even, then it will go to the team that scored the most away goals. If that is still equal, then it goes to extra time in the second match, which is an additional 30 minutes, followed by a penalty shootout if necessary. Four of these matches were played two weeks ago, with the following four played the following week.

The shock of the tournament was Italian champions Juventus, with star Cristiano Ronaldo, getting knocked out by Portuguese champions Porto. At the end of normal time, it was 2-1 with Juventus winning on the night but 3-3 on aggregate (in the first leg, Porto won 2-1). This led to the extra time during which Porto midfielder Sergio Oliveria scored a free kick, sending the ball below the jumping defensive wall and narrowly beating the Juventus goalkeeper to the bottom corner. On aggregate, it was now 4-3 to Porto, and if Juventus wanted to advance to the quarterfinals, they needed to score two goals because of the away goal rule. Juventus immediately responded with a goal but were unable to score another, leading to a 3-2 victory on the night, but a 4-4 loss on aggregate. Since Porto scored two away goals compared to Juventus’ lone away goal, they advanced.

Another match of interest was Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) against Barcelona. In the first leg, PSG scored four away goals in a 4-1 thrashing against Barcelona, giving them a comfortable lead in the tie. And it proved to be too much of a mountain for Barcelona, drawing the second leg 1-1 (5-2 on aggregate). Barcelona’s goal was provided by star Lionel Messi who hit an absolute stunner off of the volley. Although the second leg was a tie, Barcelona was dominant with possession and the overall tempo. However, they were not able to convert their chances and are out of the Champions League. This marks the first time since 2005 that neither Messi nor Ronaldo made it to the quarterfinals, an astounding record.

Another team that qualified was Borussia Dortmund, tying with Sevilla 2-2 in the second leg but winning 5-4 overall on aggregate. Dortmund striker Erling Haaland scored both goals for Dortmund, ensuring their passage to the final eight. Reigning English champions Liverpool also qualified by beating RB Leipzig 2-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate. Both forwards who scored in the first leg, Sadio Mane and Mohammad Salah, scored again to ensure their teams reached the quarterfinals as it seems like this is the only way for them to get a trophy for the season.

Manchester City beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 on the night and advanced through on a 4-0 aggregate. It seemed almost unfair given the huge difference in talent between the teams. Another team that had an easy passage is the current Champion League titleholder Bayern Munich, beating Lazio 2-1 on the night and 6-2 on aggregate. Star striker Robert Lewandowski scored a goal in that match, continuing his incredible year. As of the writing of this article, he has scored 42 goals in 36 games, including two hat tricks in three games in his domestic league. Another team that easily passed was Real Madrid, beating Atalanta 3-1 and 4-1 on aggregate.

The final match of the round of 16 was Chelsea against Atletico Madrid. Entering the game, Chelsea had a 1-0 away goal advantage. This meant that Atletico only needed to score 1 goal and keep a clean sheet, something that seemed possible due to its defensive ability to deny any goal-scoring opportunities. Chelsea ended up scoring 2 goals at home and keeping a clean sheet of its own, leading to a 3-0 aggregate. Chelsea was absolutely dominant, as it has been since new coach Thomas Tuchel took over.

With the quarterfinalists decided, the draw took place on March 19. The four quarterfinals will be Dortmund vs Manchester City, Chelsea vs Porto, Real Madrid vs Liverpool and Bayern Munich vs PSG. The Liverpool and PSG matches are rematches from the Champion League finals from 2018 and 2020, respectively. All four matches should be entertaining for fans as the teams continue their quest to win the best club trophy in the world.