Here’s what happened on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, in case you missed it…
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THE MAIN STORY
Predictability rules the day
The Champions League offered up plenty of surprises and shocking results in the round of 16 ahead of Wednesday’s slate of games. Manchester United and Juventus overcame big first-leg deficits to win their respective series when it looked like they were both dead to the world. Three-time reigning champions Real Madrid spectacularly bowed out at the hands of modest Ajax, while Tottenham completely manhandled Borussia Dortmund.
Indeed, unpredictability has been the major theme of this stage of European club soccer’s biggest tournament, but regular service was restored on Wednesday with Barcelona and Liverpool booking their respective spots in the quarterfinals.
Honestly, who thought Lyon had any chance of eliminating Lionel Messi and his cohorts? Even when Lyon were 2-1 down at the Camp Nou and only needed one more away goal to send Barca crashing out, there was an overwhelming sense that the Catalans would set things right and brush aside their ambitious French opponents. That’s exactly what they did, scoring three goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation to erase any doubts.
As for Liverpool, they were full value for their win in Germany, albeit against a Bayern Munich side that looked completely uninspired. After sleepwalking their way to a first-place finish in the group stage, this aging German outfit, relying far too heavily on players who are past their prime or not good enough to begin with, were given a lesson by a stealthy and calm Liverpool over the two legs. That Bayern bowed out in such a meek fashion before their fans on Wednesday was hardly a surprise.
Liverpool took the lead at Bayern Munich with a fabulous effort from Sadio Mane in the 26th minute. Mane latched onto a long pass from Virgil van Dijk, and after controlling it just inside the box, he spun away from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and two Bayern defenders before chipping it into an empty net.
In the 18th minute, Messi opened the scoring at the Camp Nou with a cheeky “Panenka” from the penalty spot following a VAR review.
He’s actually 35, but the point remains the same:
THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Lyon played Barcelona close for most of the match, even after going 2-0 down. But it was the final 15 minutes that killed the French club at Camp Nou.
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer is the fourth German player to reach 100 appearances in the Champions League, after Philipp Lahm (112), Thomas Müller (105) and Oliver Kahn (103).
• Messi made his 131st Champions League appearance for Barcelona on Wednesday, one more than Andres Iniesta. Only Xavi (151) has appeared more often for Barca in the competition.
• Since a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich in May 2013, Barcelona have won 27 of their 30 home games in the Champions League (with three draws).
• Messi has scored 62 goals in his 61 Champions League games at Camp Nou.
• Joel Matip is only the fourth Liverpool player to score an own goal in the Champions League, after Sami Hyypia (vs. Besiktas in 2007), John Arne Riise (vs. Chelsea 2008) and James Milner (vs. Roma in 2018).
• Messi has scored 35 goals or more in each of his last 11 seasons in all competitions.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Lionel Messi, Barcelona: Two goals and two assists from the Argentine, as Barca rolled to an easy victory.
2) Sadio Mane, Liverpool: Bagged a brace to send the Reds through to the next round.
3) Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool: Scored the winning goal and quarterbacked a defence that thwarted Bayern.