Friday 15 December 2017

Champions League winners and losers

Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action against Bayern Munich's Mehdi Benatia and Jerome Boateng
Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action against Bayern Munich's Mehdi Benatia and Jerome Boateng
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

It's advantage Juventus and Barcelona in the Champions League last four, but who are the winners and losers after the first-leg encounters?


Leo Messi

Superlatives for this man were exhausted a long time ago, but once again made football an utter joy to watch. After Ronaldo went a goal ahead in the all-time Champions League goal scoring carts, almost inevitable the Argentinian would rectify that situation.

Did so in wonderfully sublime style.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates

Manuel Neuer

Granted his quick-free put his colleagues under pressure from where Messi got on the score sheet, but no-one did more to keep the Spanish side at bay until the 77th minute. A brilliant one-on-one save from Luis Suarez set the tone and his role as an auxiliary sweeper was badly required behind a wide open Bayern defence.

Football fans

The hype surrounding glamour ties in Europe can at times disappoint, but both games were a joy to behold. Juventus demonstrated why they are arguably the most improved team in Europe with an all-action, pacey game-plan that was helped in part by some off-colour performances by some of Madrid's stars.

At the Nou Camp, two teams provided the most entertaining 0-0 draw until the 77th minute when you-know-who showed why, to use Luis Enriques words "he is from another dimension". Roll on the return legs.

Carlos Tevez

The power, pace and accuracy of the match-winning penalty reflected his performance from the very first whistle. The 31-year-old has seven goals this campaign and has been a leading light in the Old Lady's revival.

Carlos Tevez of Juventus celebrates as he scores their second goal from a penalty during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Juventus and Real Madrid

Luis Enrique

All the pre-match talk was of the returning God to the Nou Camp, but it was the current man in the hotseat that came up trumps. The third manager in three years, he has the team – a mixture of Pep's all-conquering side with a sprinkling of new faces – purring and playing a relentless brand of football.


Jerome Boateng

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher described Boateng as a 'baby in a playpen' for his tumble during Messi's second goal and looked uncomfortable throughout. A man-marking role in a back three that faced Suarez, Messi and Neymar, he had every reason to feel ill at ease in the Nou Camp.

A disastrous showing away to Porto last time out might suggest that he lacks the ability in the heart of the defence against higher quality sides.

Gareth Bale

Roy Keane described Real Madrid as "playing with 10-men" such was the Welshman's involvement and he cut a forlorn figure throughout until he was finally substituted.

Gareth Bale's agent hits back at Keane and insists Welshman’s ‘future is at Real’

The criticism of the world's most expensive player has generally been over-the-top and he was only returning from a hamstring injury, but will need a serious improvement in the return leg to dispel the speculation he will not be leaving Spain this summer.

Dani Carvajal

Even aside from the poor challenge on Carlos Tevez to concede the match-winning penalty, Carvajal was given a torrid night by the Argentinian, with his runs and link-up play tormenting the defender throughout.

Pep Guardiola

Fourteen trophies in four years was possibly the last thing on Guardiola's mind on a sobering night at the Nou Camp. His defensive gamble almost paid off until his pre-match prophecies about Messi rang true.

 Luis Enrique.jpg
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and Bayern Munich coach Josep Guardiola

What will worry Bayern fans is how their side have fared at the penultimate stage of the Champions League under his stewardship. Last season Madrid sent them packing 5-0, including a four-goal humbling at the Allianz Arena and now will have to overhaul a three-goal margin to progress to the final.

A tall order for even a man of Guardiola's stature.

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