During February 17-25, 2015, 8 round-of-16 first-leg matches were played in different European venues. Playing at home at Lviv on February 17, FC Shakhtar held visitors Bayern Munich to a goalless draw and made the second-leg match crucial for both teams. On the same day, PSG staged a second-half revival to draw against Chelsea FC and here too, second-leg will hold the key. Next day on February 18, while the home side FC Basel ended their game 1-1 with FC Porto, Real Madrid took command in the Champions League with an away-game 2-0 victory over FC Schalke. On February 24, Luis Suarez scored twice for FC Barcelona against Manchester City but the English side still kept their hopes alive by cutting the deficit for a 2-1 final score. Lionel Messi’s last minute penalty miss could be a bone of contention, when FCB host Manchester City for second leg at Camp Nou on March 18. In the second match on February 24, Juventus beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1. On February 25, AS Monaco shocked Arsenal with a 3-1 first-leg defeat and Atletico Madrid lost 0-1 at home against Bayer Leverkusen.
After the conclusion of the first-leg, Real Madrid look the best team in Champions League. Schalke will find it tough when they visit Santiago Bernabeu for second leg match. Quarterfinal prospects for FC Barcelona are also high, when they meet Manchester City in second-leg with a 1-goal advantage. Next on the high QF prospects list is AS Monaco, who caused the biggest surprise with a 3-1 humbling of Arsenal. Despite an away-game draw against Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayern Munich rate highly. Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain also look like making the round-of-8, when second-leg games are concluded. By scoring a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid, Bayern Leverkusen have brightened their prospects while Italian champions Juventus improved their chances with a 2-1 showdown against Borussia Dortmund.
In the home game on February 17, PSG found a second-half equalizer to finish on level terms with Chelsea FC. For once, Jose Mourinho looked happy, when Branislav Ivanovic scored in the first half. After the halftime, however, PSG played a spirited game and brought the scores level with a header by Edinson Cavani. With a 1-1 finish, return leg at London on March 11 assumes a great significance.
Also on February 17, FC Shakhtar Donetsk held Bayern Munich to a goalless draw at Lviv. Shakhtar matched the visitors and prevented Bayern from getting an upper hand at any time. Pressed for a goal, Bayern attacked Shakhtar’s goal in the last 30 minutes but Xabi Alonso’s red card forced them to play with 10 men. For both teams now, the return-leg will be vital.
On February 18, FC Basel and FC Porto finished their match 1-1 at Basel. The hosts didn’t look in command but they still got the first goal through Derlis Gonzalez in the 11th-minute. Fabian Frei sent a floater as Gonzalez cut in from the right before squeezing the ball past Porto Goalkeeper. The Swiss title holders played with gusto and defended against any impending equalizer. Porto got their chances but couldn’t get lucky. In the second half, Porto enhanced the pressure on the Swiss and when Porto’s Danilo sent a promising cross, Basel’s Samuel dived for a save but touched the ball to yield a penalty, from which Danilo scored for Porto to make it 1-1.
Same day, Real Madrid beat FC Schalke 2-0 to record their seventh win from seven matches this season. For Real, Cristiano Ronaldo scored from a header in the first-half, after which Schalke fortified their defense to prevent more damage in the first period. In the second half, however, Marcelo scored a crucial late goal.
In the game between FC Barcelona and Manchester City on February 24, Luis Suarez marked his return with two goals in first 30 minutes. The second goal was a beauty as Messi danced around the edge of the box to feed Jordi Alba, who found Suarez at near post. The Uruguayan made no mistake. City didn’t give up and succeeded in reducing the deficit to 2-1 when Aguero struck cleanly from the edge in 69th minute. Barcelona missed big in closing stages, when Messi failed to score from penalty.
Also on February 24, Juventus defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at Turin. For the Italians, Carlos Tevez began with a 13-minute close-range goal. But Dortmund leveled five minutes later benefitting from a slip in defense. Giorgio Chiellini lost his footing and Marco Reus slotted past Gianluigi Buffon. In the 43rd minute, Juventus made it 2-1, when Tevez found Paul Pogba on the left. The Frenchman’s low cross was delicately converted to goal by Alvaro Morata.
After Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over Schalke, the other creditable first-leg finish came from AS Monaco, who scored a commanding 3-1 victory over Arsenal on February 25. Arsenal began brightly but they were thwarted by Monaco’s strong defense. In the 38th minute, Joao Moutinho sent a lovely ball for Geoffrey Kondogbia. Though Kondogbia’s shot was tentative, Monaco got lucky, when the ball got deflected to goal from the legs of Arsenal captain Mertesacker. In 53rd minute, Monaco’s Martial drew Arsenal defenders out and squared the ball to Dimitar Berbatov, who made no mistake. In injury time, Arsenal cut down the deficit to 2-1, when Oxlade-Chamberlain shot into the goal from the edge of the box. But in the next minute, Monaco made it 3-1, feeding on Arsenal’s defense lapse as Ferreira-Carrasco collected the lost ball and ran down to drill past Ospina.
In the second match on February 25, Bayer Leverkusen defeated Atletico de Madrid 1-0. The Germans played better and could have gone ahead in the 7th minute but Leverkusen captain Lars shot wide. The only goal of the match came in the 57th minute, when Karim Bellarabi sent a back-heeled chip in the path of a speeding Hakan Çalhanoglu, who smashed powerfully for the 1-0 lead. The two teams had several exchanges of attacking raids but no further goals could accrue.
The second leg begins on March 10, when FC Porto play FC Basel and Real Madrid meet Schalke. On March 11, Chelsea will take on PSG and Bayern Munich play Shakhtar Donetsk. On March 17, AS Monaco will meet Arsenal and Atletico de Madrid would play Leverkusen. The last two second leg games will be played on March 18, when FC Barcelona play Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund take on Juventus.
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