Two contrasting Round-of-16 Second-Leg matches brought unfathomable outcomes on Tuesday night at Stade Louis II in the Principality of Monaco and the Spanish capital Madrid, where the home teams scraped through to quarterfinals. Even the most ardent fans of Monaco would not have expected their team to make it to the round-of-eight after their star players James Rodrigues and Radamel Falcao left AS Monaco in the summer for greener pastures. The only chance was their first leg 3-1 win against Arsenal but the English side failed to get past Monaco even after the 3-3 score on aggregates because Monaco edged them out on away-goal advantage. Ever since Rodrigues and Falcao left, Monaco’s game tactics changed from attack to defense. This was another reason why Arsenal found reaching the goal difficult and 2-0 was the best score they could muster. The defense solidarity of AS Monaco left Arsenal frustrated in the end. Even in the league phase earlier in the competition, Monaco conceded just a single goal and in the Ligue 1 matches too Monaco proved difficult to score against. In the other match at Madrid, Club Atletico de Madrid also reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, when their match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen ended at 1-0 in Atletico’s favor. By Leverkusen’s first leg victory by the same margin, the aggregate of 1-1 was not enough to provide a decisive result. After the extra time also ended goalless, the match had to be decided on penalties. The shoot-out was also full of drama as last year’s runners-up Atletico began with Raul Garcia, who shot the first spot-kick over the bar. But the heart-stopping game finally ended 3-2 in Atletico’s favor.
In the first match, Monaco made the first attempt on the Arsenal’s goal in the 14th minute, despite acquiring the tag of a defensive team. It was an enterprising start from AS Monaco, when Joao Moutinho came close to scoring. Afterwards however, the Gunners didn’t allow Monaco any more luxury. In UEFA’s Champions League history, no side has ever recovered from a 3-1 loss at home but Arsenal did not have to take that as a gospel. They took the game to Monaco’s half for most periods and succeeded twice in scoring. Just before half-time, Olivier Giroud obtained 1-0 lead for the Gunners. Giroud was fed a nice ball by Danny Welbeck and he shot hard. But Monaco goalkeeper Subasic blocked the shot. Giroud was not finished as he picked up the rebound and smartly flicked the ball in. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger brought in substitute Aaron Ramsey for Francis Coquelin and that proved fortuitous for the Gunners. In the 79th minute, Aaron Ramsey made it 2-0, when Theo Walcott hit the post and Layvin Kurzawa’s clearance fell in the path of Ramsey. The substitute player didn’t commit any error in front of the goal. Arsenal did their best to get the match-winner but Monaco held on solidly to their defense. As the final whistle blew, it was curtains for Arsenal as AS Monaco sailed into the quarterfinals on the strength of scoring more number of goals in the away game.
In the Spanish capital, Atletico de Madrid had a trying game against Germany’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen. In the first leg, Leverkusen had beaten Atletico 1-0. Therefore, the Madrid team had to first find an equalizer before carrying on with enhancing their lead. They succeeded in their plans midway through the first-half, when Mario Suarez deflected a cross into the Leverkusen goal. Afterwards, the home side controlled the game and played mostly in Leverkusen half. Regardless, the 2014 runners-up couldn’t get another goal. The match slipped into the extra time and that too remained goalless. There was no option for the referee but to call for the penalty shoot-out.
Breathing stopped in the stadium, when Raul Garcia took the first spot-kick for Atletico and sent the ball flying over the crossbar. But Leverkusen lost the advantage, when Hakan Calhanoglu’s attempt was foiled by Atletico’s substitute goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Atletico scored with their next penalty taken by Omer Toprak. More drama was in store as Koke failed to score. However, Fernando Torres converted Atletico’s fifth kick and when Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling missed the target with the last spot-kick, Atletico made their quarterfinal entry.
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