In a draw scheduled for April 15 at Nyon, it will be known as to who plays whom in the two-legged semifinals of the UEFA Champions League this year, even as the second-leg quarterfinals on April 12 & 13 decided the four teams. The most thrilling quarterfinal game on April 12 was played at Santiago Bernabeu, where Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick took his side into semifinals. Taking the field with a 0-2 deficit against Wolfsburg, Real Madrid were the underdogs and anything less than three goals against the visitors would have been a no-no for them. But Ronaldo rode majestically on Wolfsburg’s defensive lapses and like a Johnny on the spot, found three gaping holes, when it mattered most. Though none of Ronaldo’s goals could be classified as brilliant but it didn’t matter on Tuesday since those gave Madrid a 3-2 aggregate victory. On the same day, Manchester City quashed the hopes of Paris Saint Germain with a tense 1-0 victory and went through with the same 3-2 aggregate score. On April 13, reigning champions FC Barcelona went out of championship contention with a 0-2 loss against Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich emerged as the fourth semifinalist after their 2-2 draw against Benefica that gave them 3-2 edge on aggregates.
Cristiano Ronaldo brought Santiago Bernabeu alive first with two headed goals in 16th and 17th minutes and the all-important third in the 77th. These goals didn’t have the stamp of Ronaldo’s superhero status but whatever be their color, they helped Real Madrid make the semifinal grade for the sixth straight year. It is not often in two-legged matches that a team would overturn a 0-2 deficit and win on aggregates but that became possible on Tuesday with Wolfsburg slackening their defenses and Ronaldo getting a bit lucky. First goal for Madrid came when Dani Carvajal ran into Wolfsburg before sending a cross to Ronaldo, who headed in. 86 seconds later, a goal-bound shot by the Portuguese, was cleared but once again Ronaldo’s header found the net from the resulting corner by Toni Kroos. The dejected Wolfsburg tried to step up play but two goals so early in the game had brought enough spring in Madrid’s play. The third and decisive goal for Ronaldo and Madrid came in 77th minute from one of the weakest free-kicks the Portuguese ever took. But he rode his luck as Wolfsburg defenders created a gap in the wall and the low ball eluded goalkeeper Benaglio! Wolfsburg did all they could but it wasn’t their night at Santiago Bernabeu.
In another game at Madrid next day, Barcelona did the reverse of what their staunchest rivals, Real Madrid could do on Tuesday. While Real came back amazingly, Barca couldn’t capitalize on their 2-1 first-leg advantage against Atletico Madrid and yielded two goals, both of which were scored by Antoine Griezmann. For the second time in eight years, FCB failed to reach the UEFA Champions League semifinals and on both occasions, they lost to Atleti. One of Barca’s most promising chances came in the injury-extended 91st minute, but the referee denied them the penalty and Lionel Messi sent the resulting free-kick over the bar. Much before that, Griezmann had brought frenzy in the stadium in 36th minute by heading in from Saul Miguez’s lovely pass. Barcelona had higher ball possession but their slow movements denied them any genuine chances. Until the 88th minute, Barca were still technically in the fray but Griezmann sealed the semifinal berth for Atleti with another goal and the hosts won 3-2 on aggregates.
Paris Saint Germain were unlucky in the away game against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium on Tuesday. They created the chances but lacked in defense. In 30th minute, PSG yielded a penalty when goalkeeper Kevin Trapp dangerously brought down Sergio Aguero but the Argentinian missed the penalty, when he shot one meter wide off the post. Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed two free kicks but City goalkeeper also saved some close chances. In 76th Minute, Fernando sent a square pass to Kevin de Bruyne, who sidestepped and shot perfectly into the goal from a brilliant arc and City entered the semifinals with a 3-2 aggregate score.
The fourth game was played in Lisbon between hosts FC Benefica and Bayern Munich. The visitors took to the field with the 1-0 first-leg edge and all they needed was a draw. But the match was full of action as Benefica didn’t want to yield easily. They began by wiping off the first-leg deficit, when Benefica’s Eliseu lofted a long ball into the Bayern box. They Bayern goalkeeper got deceived by ball’s flight and Raul Jimenez calculated better to head the ball into an empty goal. Pushed back briefly, Bayern regrouped and 11 minutes later, Arturo Vidal made it 1-1 when Benefica goalkeeper’s block fell on the Chilean midfielder’s feet and he didn’t miss. In 52nd minute, Thomas Muller made it 2-1 for Bayern and although Benefica restored the 2-2 parity from Talisca’s fine free-kick, that made no difference to Bayern making the semifinals with a 3-2 aggregate score.
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