Here’s what happened in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, in case you missed it…
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WHAT STOOD OUT
It’s about Sevilla – not Man United
A lot of the post-match analysis of Sevilla’s win over Manchester United will no doubt focus on the English side, and why they exited European club soccer’s biggest stage at the round of 16 in complete disgrace. Questions will be asked of United manager Jose Mourinho, and why he didn’t set his team up to attack with greater vigour against the Spaniards in the second leg after battling to a 0-0 draw in the opener a few weeks ago.
But that misses the point. Tuesday’s contest wasn’t so much about what Manchester United didn’t do, but rather what Sevilla did do. Full credit must be given to manager Vincenzo Montella’s side for marching into Old Trafford and dictating the pace of the match right from the opening kickoff. The duo of Steven Nzonzi and Ever Banega combined to dominate midfield play, reducing so many of Manchester United’s players as onlookers who tried in vain to chase them down and win back the ball.
And it was Montella, and not Mourinho, who made the decisive adjustment in the second half. While the United manager introduced Paul Pogba for Marouane Fellaini (a switch that did little to affect the Red Devils’ attacking aspirations), Montella brought on Wissam Ben Yedder for the ineffective Luis Muriel.
Immediately, the speedy Frenchman linked up with Banega and attacking cohort Pablo Sarabia, scoring the opening goal less than two minutes after stepping onto the pitch. Sarabia played a defence-splitting pass for Ben Yedder, who finished it off with aplomb, driving a low shot inside the post. Moments later Ben Yedder doubled Sevilla’s lead when his header at the far post handcuffed goalkeeper David De Gea.
There was no way back at that point for United, who was neutralized by Sevilla’s midfield on the night.
BEST GOAL OF THE DAY
The winning goal for AS Roma came out of nothing in the 52nd minute when Dutchman Kevin Strootman played a wonderfully-weighted through ball down the left side that split open the Shakhtar Donetsk defence. Edin Dzeko timed his run to perfection, latching onto the ball and beating onrushing goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov through the legs with an exquisite finish.
BEST MOMENT OF THE DAY
BEST TWEET OF THE DAY
HE SAID IT
THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Manchester United never managed to get a firm hold on the game. One of the main reasons why was the play of Banega, who served as Sevilla’s chief organizer and orchestrator, especially in the first half when he was far more productive than any United player. Banega and Nzonzi effectively controlled the midfield through the opening 45 minutes, allowing Sevilla to stay in the game before hitting United with a sucker punch in the second half in the form of Ben Yedder’s brace.
BURNING QUESTION OF THE DAY
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Sevilla’s Ben Yedder scored the fastest goal (87 seconds) by a substitute in this season’s Champions League.
• AS Roma’s Dzeko has scored four goals in this Champions League campaign, equaling his best single-season tally in the competition (four goals in 2009-10 with Wolfsburg).
• Ben Yedder is the first substitute in Champions League history to score a brace against Manchester United.
• AS Roma have kept a clean sheet in each of their last four Champions League home games (with three wins)
• Sevilla will play in the Champions League/European Cup quarter-finals for only the second time, the first since 1958.
• Two Italian teams have reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006-07.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Wissam Ben Yedder, Sevilla: The super sub broke the deadlock at Old Trafford by scoring a pair of goals a mere six minutes after entering the game.
2) Edin Dzeko, AS Roma: Scored the lone goal, and was the reference point for a Roma attack that unnerved Shakhtar Donetsk for most of the match.
3) Ever Banega, Sevilla: The diminutive Argentine served as Sevilla’s midfield general, and he played a part in setting up Ben Yedder’s first goal.