Last two days have brought absorbing football action in the return legs of Champion League’s round-of-16 games. On Tuesday, Chelsea FC beat Galatasaray 2-0 to make an aggregate score of 3-1 and Real Madrid decimated Schalke 3-1 for an amazing aggregate of 9-2. Last night, FC Zenit’s 2-1 victory against Borussia Dortmund was wasted because of their 2-4 first leg deficit and Dortmund still went ahead with an aggregate of 5-4 but the most impressive result was provided by Manchester United, who spiritedly overcame Olympiacos 3-0, wiping off the 0-2 first leg deficit and making it to the last eight with a 3-2 aggregate. A brief run-down on the four games is presented here.
Chelsea v/s Galatasaray; Stamford Bridge, London:
Jose Mourinho’s side entered the Champions League QF in dominating fashion, when Cameroon striker Samuel Eto scored from a great pass by Oscar in the 4th minute. Two minutes later, Galatasaray’s counter was wasted as Drogba was clearly off-side. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard muffed a chance in the 22nd minute but their next goal came in the 42nd minute from Gary Cahill, when a header from John Terry was saved by Muslera but the ball dropped near Cahill, who shot in to make it 2-0 for Chelsea. Drogba, who is set to return to his old club Chelsea soon, had a rather listless match, though he had a few opportunities.
Real Madrid v/s Schalke; Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid:
Real’s entry into the quarters was a foregone conclusion because Schalke faced a monumental 1-6 deficit from the first leg. Playing in front of the home fans, Real made several attempts at the goal as the game got underway. Real’s first goal of the match was scored by the brilliant Ronaldo, who took his season’s goal tally to 12. It was a great 21st minute move, in which Gareth Bale converted Alvaro Morata’s pass into a low cross for Ronaldo, who shot in from close range. But Schalke equalized from a lucky goal in the 31st minute, when a powerful strike from Tim Hoogland was deflected into the goal from Ramos’s boot. In the 73rd minute, Ronaldo scored once again after collecting a loose ball in mid-field and ran all the way to Schalke’s goal. Two minutes later, Alvaro Morata scored from a rebounded header by Ronaldo to make it 3-1 for Real. Santiago Bernabeu fans gave a standing ovation as their heroes finished a 9-2 aggregate victory on the way to the Champions League quarterfinal.
Borussia Dortmund v/s FC Zenit, Dortmund, Germany:
Faced with the 2-4 first leg deficit, FC Zenit played a spirited game. Hulk made a big move, coming from the right flank and passing two defenders before producing a curling left-footer, dumbfounding the Dortmund goalkeeper, as the looping ball hit the net. In the 38th minute, Borussia Dortmund equalized from Sebastian Kehl, who headed a swinging cross from Marcel Schmelzer. With scores level, both sides made strikes in each other’s area but in vain. In the 73rd minute, Zenit’s Domenico Criscito lobbed a beautiful cross to Jose Rondon, who headed in without any error. The match ended with a 1-2 to loss for Dortmund but their 4-2 first leg advantage, allowed them a berth in the quarterfinal with a 5-4 aggregate.
Manchester United v/s Olympiacos, Old Trafford, Manchester:
This was the best round-of-16 game of the last two nights. Man-U, took the field with a 0-2 first leg deficit and they knew, what was expected of them. After Wayne Rooney’s 6th minute shot at the goal was saved by Olympiacos goalkeeper, Man-U made several forays in the Olympiacos penalty area. In the 23rd minute, Ryan Giggs sent a long pass to Robin Van Persie in the penalty area but Persie was pushed by Olympiacos’s Jose Holebas. He took the penalty and produced a powerful shot to open the scoring for Man-U. Just at the stroke of half-time, Ryan Giggs provided another lovely pass to Wayne Rooney at the edge of the box but Rooney lobbed it to the unmarked Van Persie, who didn’t err. Persie’s second goal wiped out the first leg deficit for Man-U. There was a bit of theatrics in the 50th minute as Welbeck was fouled by Manolas. Rooney shaped to take the free-kick but ran over the ball instead. In an instant, Van Persie, emerging from behind produced a curling shot, which sailed menacingly into the bottom left corner with Olympiacos goalie rooted to his spot. Persie completed his hat-trick and United went 3-2 ahead and all they needed to do was to avoid any goals from Olympiacos. It was a great turn around for Manchester United as they progressed to the quarterfinal of the Champions League. For United, the victory was significant because it came within three days of a crushing loss, they suffered against Liverpool.
Eight clubs from four nations have, thus, entered the quarterfinals of the Champions League. On Friday the draw will be held at UEFA headquarters at Nyon. There are two clubs from England, besides three from Spain, two from Germany and one from France.