Drama in the Champions League Round of 16


The UEFA Champions League continues to have thrilling battles for the title. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Over the past couple of weeks, the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Champions League kicked off the round of 16 as the teams played two-legged ties to see who would advance into the quarterfinals of the competition. As a reminder, this year, the away goal rule was removed, meaning that if the score was even on aggregate after both legs, extra time would be played followed by penalties if needed. Here were the ties:

Sporting Clube de Portugal v Manchester City

Red Bull Salzburg v Bayern Munich

Inter Milan v Liverpool

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid

Chelsea v Lille

Villareal v Juventus

Atlético Madrid v Manchester United

Benfica v Ajax

Starting with City v Sporting, Man City were the huge favorites in this tie and proved so in the first leg with a dominating 5-0 victory. With such a huge advantage heading into the second leg, their passage to the quarterfinal was almost guaranteed. With a 0-0 tie in the second leg, they cruised to the quarterfinals. 

Bayern were also huge favorites against RB Salzburg, but unlike Manchester City, the first leg was much more dramatic. RB Salzburg shocked the world when they took the lead early in the 21st minute, stunning the German giants. The rest of the match, Bayern looked to equalize but were unable to break Salzburg’s defense. However, in the 90th minute, Bayern equalized thanks to Kingsley Coman to make it 1-1 on the night with the second leg still to be played in Munich. In the second leg, Bayern confirmed their status as favorites to win the competition by battering Salzburg 7-1, advancing to the quarterfinals 8-2 on aggregate. Striker Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick in less than 12 minutes, setting a record for the fastest Champions League hat trick in the knockout stages.

Liverpool started off the round of 16 well with a 2-0 victory against Inter with two late goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohammad Salah. In the second leg, Inter tried to get back into the tie but Liverpool stood firm. Inter did get one back with a wonder goal in the second half from Lautaro Martinez, but Inter’s mood quickly changed due to Alexis Sanchez being sent off for a second yellow card less than two minutes after the goal. With a numerical advantage, Liverpool was able to control the game. Despite losing on the night 1-0, they advanced to the quarterfinals 2-1 on aggregate.

One of the biggest ties of the round of 16 was PSG against Real Madrid. It was a reunion of Madrid against one of their fiercest rivals, Lionel Messi. The biggest headline in this tie was PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, who has been speculated to join Madrid this summer once his contract runs out at PSG. Real even tried to get him last summer, offering up to 200 million pounds, which PSG refused. In the first leg, PSG dominated the game, constantly creating chances and knocking on Real’s door. Real stood firm, and it seemed as if the first leg would end in a draw. However, with the last kick of the game, Mbappe dribbled by two Real defenders and slotted the ball in the back of the net to give PSG a 1-0 win and a lead going into the second leg. 

In the second leg, PSG continued their dominance in the first 45 minutes, with Mbappe scoring once again to make it 1-0 on the night and 2-0 on aggregate. It seemed as if PSG was set to advance to the quarterfinals. However, Los Blancos had other plans. Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema scored in the 61st minute off of a pitiful goalkeeper mistake and made it 1-1 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate. From then on, the momentum switched the way of Real. Benzema got a brace in the 76th minute to make it 2-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate, completing the comeback. However, right after the restart, Benzema made it a hat trick in the 78th minute to make it 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate. PSG’s collapse in a span of 17 minutes saw them booted out of the Champions League in another humiliating match and saw Real Madrid qualify for the quarterfinals.

Chelsea showed why they were the defending champions with a 2-0 win in the first leg with goals from Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic. In the second leg, Lille got one back courtesy of a penalty, but Chelsea fought back with goals from Pulisic and Cesar Azpliqueta to make it 2-1 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate, securing the blues passage to the quarterfinals.

Another round of 16 tie was Atlético Madrid against Manchester United. Atlético took the lead with a brilliant Joao Felix header to take the lead early in the first leg. From then on, Atlético played defensively, trying to preserve their lead to take into the second leg. However, United found their equalizer late in the game to make it a 1-1 draw with the second leg in Manchester. In the second leg, United were aggressive and had several chances that were stopped by the Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. United dominated the first half but were unable to get that final touch to get a goal. Right before halftime, Atlético scored against the run of play to make it 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate. United tried in the second half to get an equalizer but were unable to penetrate the Atlético defense. After 90 minutes, United crashed out of the Champions League with Atlético advancing to the quarterfinals.

Heading into this tie, Juventus were the favored team and showed why with Dusan Vlahovic scoring within 60 seconds in the first leg to go 1-0 up on the night. However, in the 66th minute, Villareal equalized to make it 1-1 on the night, which is how the first leg ended. In the second leg, Juventus had good chances but were unable to convert any of them. With 12 minutes to go, it seemed as if we would see extra time. However, Villareal were awarded a penalty, which was converted, making it 2-1 on aggregate and forcing Juventus to go on the attack to have a chance of staying in the competition. However, Villareal were able to withstand the Juventus pressure and score two more goals, making it 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate, sending the Europa League champions into the quarterfinals. 

In the final tie, Ajax were also heavy favorites. Within 18 minutes, they were leading 1-0 on the night. Benfica equalized with a Sebastian Haller goal. Haller made it right by scoring a goal in the correct end to make it 2-1 on the night, giving Haller his 11th goal in seven matches in the Champions League. Ajax kept the lead until the 72nd minute where Benfica equalized. After 90 minutes, it ended in a 2-2 draw. In the second leg, both teams were trying to score but to no avail. However in the 77th minute, Benfica scored courtesy of Darwin Núñez with their first shot on target of the night. Ajax tried to equalize but were eliminated from the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate in an upset that few would have predicted.

After all eight ties were played, the quarterfinal draw was made with the following ties:

Benfica v Liverpool

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

Villareal v Bayern

Chelsea v Real Madrid

The first legs will be played on April 5 and 6 with the second leg being played the following week on April 12 and April 13. The Benfica and Manchester City ties will be played on the 5th and the 13th with the Villareal and Chelsea ties on the 6th and the 12th. With only eight teams left, each team will want to make it to the semifinals to win the biggest club trophy in the world.