Champions League quarter-finals: Shocks, sitters, drama and genius
For the first time in 24 years, there will be no English or Spanish sides in the Champions League semi-finals after Lyon stunned Manchester City in Portugal.
Not since the 1995-96 season, when Marcello Lippi’s eventual champions Juventus and Louis van Gaal’s Ajax overcame Nantes and Panathinaikos respectively, has the Premier League or La Liga failed to be represented in the final four.
But following four enthralling last-eight match-ups, Germany and France provide two clubs apiece in the battle for European club football’s greatest prize in 2020.
The semi-finals will see Bayern Munich face Lyon on Wednesday with RB Leipzig in action against Paris St-Germain the night before.
The late, late drama
The first hint at what was to come in this mini-tournament was offered in sensational style, as Paris St-Germain – victims of some stunning Champions League comebacks themselves in recent years – scored twice in the dying moments to break Atalanta hearts.
Marquinhos’ 90th-minute equaliser rescued PSG, who had trailed since the 26th minute, before former Stoke City frontman Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s 93rd-minute winner sealed the French side’s first semi-final appearance for 25 years.
The goals were separated by just 146 seconds. Champions League debutants Atalanta were speechless. The one-game quarter-final shootouts were well and truly under way.
The big surprises
The new one-legged ‘final-eight’ format in Portugal, introduced to bring a swifter end to an interrupted Champions League campaign a mere 414 days after the qualifying rounds for the 2019-20 edition began, always had the potential to deliver seismic shocks.
RB Leipzig’s progression to a first Champions League semi-final just 11 years after the club was formed duly delivered on that promise – arriving at the expense of Diego Simeone’s steely Atletico Madrid who had outmanoeuvred reigning champions Liverpool en route.
To the delight of neutrals there was more late drama to digest, as Tyler Adams’ deflected shot two minutes from time took Julian Nagelsmann’s side to a semi-final meeting with PSG.
The glorious chaos
The standout tie of the round certainly delivered, just not in the way that anyone could have predicted.
Rather than two European heavyweights exchanging knockout blows, Bayern Munich recast their meeting with Barcelona as a devastating advert of their current superiority in an 8-2 dismantling of Quique Setien’s shell-shocked side.
It was the first time a team has ever scored eight goals in a Champions League knockout match and the first time Barcelona have lost a match by six since 1951 as the German champions ran riot. The 2019-20 season will also be the first since 2005-06 not to feature Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League semi-final stage.
One terrible missed sitter
Having taken note of RB Leipzig’s toppling of Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, Lyon kindly asked the German side to hold their beer on Saturday night.
Pep Guardiola’s Premier League side were overwhelming favourites to advance past a side which finished a curtailed Ligue 1 season in seventh place, well adrift of any European qualification for next season.
In a game ultimately defined by uncharacteristic errors, the game and *that* elusive trophy agonisingly swung away from Manchester City in exactly 60 seconds, as Raheem Sterling miscued with the goal gaping at 2-1 before Ederson spilled a save into the path of Moussa Dembele to score his second.
Sterling couldn’t believe it. But after four nights of baffling brilliance, we all could. (BBC Sport)