By Yemi Babalola Lagos, Nigeria.
The UEFA Champions league round of 16 came to a wrap on Wednesday 15 march, 2017 as the concluding second-leg set of matches were been played progressing into the quarter-final round are 8 teams; Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Leicester City, Monaco and Atletico Madrid.
Starting from the matches played between 7th and 8th March 2017, Bayern Munich had to travel down to England to finish the good job they embarked on in Germany in the first leg of their match against Arsenal FC of England, where they flogged Arsenal FC 5-1.
The exact same score line ended the second leg which saw Bayern progressing 10-2 on aggregate.
The result did not go down well for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, according to The Professor, he was “revolted” by the referee after his “brave” Arsenal side suffered a last-16 Champions League thrashing by Bayern Munich. Referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos denied the hosts a penalty when 1-0 up before later awarding one for a Laurent Koscielny foul on Robert Lewandowski. Despite this sentiment from the manager the Frenchman had been the subject of protests from fans before the game at Emirates Stadium, asking for him to step down.
The Gunners have again suffered the same fate, making it the seven successive seasons knock out at this stage of the Champions League.
For the Spanish giants Real Madrid, it was a joyous moment that same night as the team progressed to the quarter-finals, coming from a goal down to progress ahead of Napoli.
Napoli were utterly dominant in a one-sided first half and took the lead on 24 minutes when Marek Hamsik put Dries Mertens through on goal as Real’s defense-line weaknesses were exploited by Napoli. But Captain Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid netted one and had another header deflected in by Mertens after the break to put the holders in control. Alvaro Morata then followed up Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot to complete a comfortable victory.
The following day was one many football lovers believed a miracle could happen and it indeed happen. For the first in the history of the round of 16 in the UEFA champions league, Barcelona become the first team to overturn a first-leg 4-0 deficit as they knocked out Paris St-Germain to reach the quarter-finals for the 10th successive season. The Spanish champions were leading 2-nil at the break courtesy of Luis Suarez’s header after just three minutes and Layvin Kurzawa’s own goal, they added another shortly after half-time when Neymar fell over Thomas Meunier in the box giving Lionel Messi opportunity to convert the penalty.
Barcelona were 5-3 down on aggregate in the 88th minute, but scored three goals in the final seven minutes in one of the greatest European ties of all time. Neymar’s free-kick and penalty followed by Sergi Roberto’s 95th-minute winner sealed victory on an incredible night at the Nou Camp.
Now, Brazilian star Neymar, who was influential to a very high degree, in delivering the result for Barcelona, after a stormy season both in their domestic league and across all competition, emerged the man of the match. This did not come as a surprise to many who have already tagged this performance as one of the greatest comeback matches of all time.
On the same night Borussia Dortmund who also lost like Barcelona, the first leg of their round of 16 match against Benfica at home, with the help of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored a hat-trick as Borussia Dortmund thrashed Benfica to ease into the Champions League quarter-finals. Aubameyang, who missed a penalty in the first leg in Lisbon, took time to erase the pain as he swept in Marcel Schmelzer’s low cross two minutes later before an unmarked Marc Bartra hit the post from a corner. The Gabon striker completed his treble with five minutes remaining as he turned in Erik Durm’s sublime pass.
Dortmund lost only one of their last 12 European home matches under Coach Thomas Tuchel while reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2014.
Still giving run down of matches, the second set of final matches in the round of 16 took off from Tuesday March 14th, when Italian champions Juventus eased into the Champions League quarter-finals with a routine second-leg win against Portuguese league leaders Porto. Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Juve sealed the tie when Paulo Dybala drilled in a low penalty after Maxi Periera was sent off for handball. The hosts played the second half at a canter as they reached the last eight for the second time in four years.
While, on the same night Leicester City wrote another chapter in their remarkable story as they overturned a first-leg deficit to beat Sevilla 2-nil and reach the Champions League quarter-finals on a night of raw passion at the King Power Stadium. The Foxes looked in trouble after a 2-1 first-leg loss in Spain that was the catalyst for the sacking of Claudio Ranieri – the manager who had guided them into this competition after winning the Premier League nine months ago.
Reaction from the match, Sevilla midfielder Samir Nasri has accused Jamie Vardy of cheating after the Frenchman was sent off for squaring up to the Leicester forward and bumping foreheads in their Champions League clash on Tuesday. Nasri, who is on loan at Sevilla from Manchester City, was shown a second yellow card by Italian referee Daniele Orsato for violent conduct after squaring up to Vardy. Though Leicester City came out in support of Vardy and the player also refuted the Frenchman’s comments.
On the final day of the round of 16 matches, Atletico Madrid booked their place in the Champions League quarterfinals for a fourth consecutive season but had goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank for avoiding defeat in a 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday. Where goalkeeper Jan Oblak produced a remarkable triple save midway through the second half as Atletico held on to their 4-2 first-leg advantage to take their place in Friday’s draw for the last eight.
Atletico Madrid sealed their place in the last eight of the Champions League courtesy of a professional second-leg display against Bayer Leverkusen. Bayer keeper Bernd Leno produced two excellent stops of his own to tip away Angel Correa and Koke shots. Last season’s runners-up Atletico are the third Spanish side through to the quarter-finals, along with Barcelona and holders Real Madrid.
English side Manchester city unfortunately, could not capitalize on their first leg win at the Etihad and surmount Monaco in France as, Monaco struck late to seal a thrilling away-goals victory, which ended 6-6 on aggregate. Leading 5-3 from the first leg of their last-16 tie, City fielded an attacking XI in the second leg on Wednesday but lost 3-1 to go out on away goals. City manager Pep Guardiola has already taken responsibility for the loss saying that his failure to convince his Manchester City players to attack in Monaco is the reason for their Champions League elimination.
The final 8 teams to slug it out in the quarter-finals are Spanish big wigs Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, with German duo Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, English champions Leicester, French league leaders Monaco and Italian side Juventus completing the draw, which takes place on Friday March 17, 2017.