With their return leg matches completed, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich have registered their entries into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. On March 11, 2014, while the Spanish side defeated Italian club AC Milan, Bayern Munich got the better of English club Arsenal.
The 55000-capacity Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid came alive last night with roaring fans being treated to a spirited performance from their heroes in the middle. In the 3rd minute from the start, Diego Costa received a floating cross from Koke coming to his right side. With only the Milan center-back Adil Rami to deal with, Costa produced a searing volley past the full-length diving Milan goalkeeper, Christian Abbiati. It was the brilliant Costa’s sixth goal of the Champions League but he didn’t know then that more was yet to come. AC Milan suddenly found themselves in doldrums, because they needed to score 3 goals now, to find a passage into the quarters, having already lost the first leg 0-1. To some extent Milan got a bit of relief, when the Brazilian superhero Kaka equalized the score in the 27th minute. It was a fine move by Milan, as Mario Balotelli sent the ball to Andrea Poli, who hit a deep and flying cross in front of the goal. Kaka was there on the spot to head the ball into the net. Shortly afterwards, Kaka made another move but Atletico survived. In the 31st minute, Costa fielded a ball on his chest and directed it to the Turkish mid-fielder Arda Turan. But luckily for Atletico, Arda’s weak volley got deflected by Adil Rami and flew to the net. It was a gift Atletico didn’t anticipate. With momentum renewed, Atletico attacked again and they would have taken a 3-1 lead if Raul Garcia’s delectable overhead kick had not missed the target by inches. At half-time the score line read 2-1, but when the sides were switched after the break, Atletico were back to attacking once again. The combination of Garcia, Koke and Arda Turan were seen working tirelessly, which finally resulted in the 71st minute goal for Atletico. A nicely taken free kick from Gabi was headed in by Raul Garcia to make it 3-1. In the 85th minute, Costa took his champions league tally of goals to 7, when he shook the nets with a low angled shot and sealed the victory for Atletico.
In the other match, Arsenal had to counter a 0-2 deficit against Bayern Munich from the first leg match, which they lost in London. To their credit, Arsenal put up a great performance in the return leg match last night. The scene was the mammoth 70000-capacity Allianz Arena football stadium in Munich, which is home to Bayern. The Allianz Arena is the only stadium in the world, which has a full color-changing exterior, made possible by the use of artificially inflated ETFE plastic panels. Playing against the defending Champions, the gunners were able to make counter moves but despite several forays on the Bayern goal couldn’t find the target. The first half ended scoreless but in the 54th minute, Bastian Schweinsteiger put Bayern ahead by a goal scored from close range. Frank Ribery sent a fine cross, which found the unmarked Schweinsteiger. The Arsenal midfielder Cazrola lost track for a while and this allowed Schweinsteiger to move freely and shoot in from close range. Within three minutes from Bayern taking the lead, Arsenal equalized from a goal scored by Podolski, who had been chasing Lahm on the right flank. Podolski shoved Lahm from behind but the referee was not able to see, though Podolski briefly stopped for an instant in anticipation of a foul. But seeing that the referee had obviously overlooked the foul, Podolski produced a powerful fast rising left-footer that smashed into the net on the topside of the Bayern goal. The Germans were unhappy at the error and they charged into the Arsenal goal area with vengeance. They made several moves but could not convert those chances. Almost from closing time, Arjen Robben was wrongfully brought down by Laurent Koscieny and the referee awarded the penalty but Thomas Mueller’s penalty was saved by the Arsenal goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski. Mueller, otherwise, has a reputation of a merciless striker, who doesn’t fail. Bayern regretted the miss because that would have helped them end on a winning note.