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Champions League Review: Barcelona & Ajax through; Juventus & Utd out

TAGs: afc ajax, barcelona, champions league

The first night of the Champions League Quarter-Final second leg ties has ended with Barcelona and Ajax marching into the Semi-Finals as Manchester United and Juventus tumble out of the competition.

Champions League Review: Barcelona & Ajax through; Juventus & Utd outIt was a night when the whole world expected Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to hog the headlines.

One of them did.

Messi has two, possibly, three more games to close the 16-goal gap at the top of the Champions League All-Time Top Scorers order of merit, and Ronaldo can only sit on his Polar Bear fur rug and watch.

Barcelona is through to the Semi-Final.

Juventus is not.

We begin our round-up with Ajax’s incredible victory in the Old Lady’s backyard.

The young Dutch stars, who eliminated the Champions Real Madrid in the previous round, came into the tie knowing they needed to score after drawing 1-1 in the home leg.

Ronaldo was the man who grabbed that away goal; his 125th, and his 126th came in the 28th minute when he wriggled free from his marker to score unmarked from a corner in typical bull-like fashion.

If Ajax were to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1997, they were going to have to score twice, and score twice they did.

Ten minutes before half time, Hakim Ziyech let loose with a long-range snowflake of an effort. Fortunately, before it melted, it dropped into the path of Donny van de Beek who slotted the ball home with all the calm and assurance of a man who had been doing so for as long as Ronaldo.

The teams went into the half-time break on an even keel. There was no time to go to church. The escape pods were inoperable. Ajax knew they needed a goal, and they didn’t waste time going for the jugular.

Seven-minutes into the second half and Ziyech produced a top-notch save from Wojciech Szczęsny, and six minutes later the Pole was at it again, brilliantly tipping over a long ranger curler from the outstanding van de Beek.

Five more minutes passed, before Dusan Tadic found space in the box, looked up, threaded the ball through to Ziyech only for Miralem Pjanić to arrive on cue with a goal-saving interception.

Undeterred, Ajax flowed forward once more and won a corner, from which their teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt crashed into two Juventus defenders to thud home the winner.

De Ligt’s header left Juventus needing to bag a brace to save their blushes. Ajax counter-attacked to perfection. David Neres missed from six yards before Ziyech saw a goal turned into debris for an offside in the build-up.

Juventus could have had a penalty with time ticking away after the ball struck the arm of Daley Blind, but the referee had none of it after consulting with his VAR team.

“We will have to be careful with our beers,” Blind told reporters after his win before adding that he didn’t care who Ajax faced in the semi-finals.

Ajax is now a 13/2 shot to go all the way but will have to beat either Spurs or Man City to do so.

Barcelona 3 v 0 Man Utd

Ajax could potentially meet Barcelona in the final after Ernesto Valverde’s men triumphed in a 3-0 stroll in the park against Manchester United at the Nou Camp.

United started brightly, with Marcus Rashford striking the crossbar within a minute, but two defensive howlers ended the tie before the little hand had hit the 25-minute mark.

During the first leg at Old Trafford, stats from Opta showed that Ashley Young gave the ball away 30-times (every three minutes). When he did venture across the halfway line, none of his 11 attempted crosses ended up finding the head, foot or balls of a single United player.

Fast forward a week.

With 16-minutes on the clock, and United on the ascendency, Young lost the ball to Lionel Messi (like handing a fleshy femur to a lion), in a dangerous area, and the Argentine star nutmegged Fred before placing the ball into the far corner.

Then came howler #2.

Four-minutes after mesmerising the United defence, Messi picked the ball up outside of the area and unleashed a tame effort, only for the United players and bench to watch in horror as the ball squirmed beneath the usual rock solid frame of David De Gea to leave United needing to score three.

They never came close to scoring one.

Philippe Coutinho put the result beyond all doubt with a cracker on 61-minutes.

Quarter-Final Results

Barcelona 3 v 0 Man Utd (4-0 Agg)
Juventus 1 v 2 Ajax (2-3 Agg)

To Play

Man City v Spurs (0-1 Agg)
Porto v Liverpool (0-2 Agg)

Champions League Winning Odds

Barcelona 7/4
Man City 11/4
Liverpool 10/3
Ajax 13/2
Spurs 9/1
Porto 200/1​

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