Who Will Make The Champions League Final 4?
The first-legs of the Champions League quarter-finals were played midweek, so who is looming likely to reach the final four of Europe’s top competiton.
Arsenal produced an incredible European comeback at the Emirates Stadium to give themselves hope against the holders Barcelona after a 2-2 draw in the first-leg.
After being frustrated having dominated the first-half, Barcelona needed just 25 seconds to break the deadlock in the second-half through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who Swede doubled Barca’s lead 15 mintues later, but Arsenal would dramatically fight back. Theo Walcott scored on 69 minutes before Cesc Fabregas won and converted a penalty with five minutes to go. But he’ll miss the return after a yellow, along with sent-off Carles Puyol.
But Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger regretted: “The way we gave the ball away is beyond understanding.” He added: “My players deserve a lot of credit because they kept in the tie against a great team. If you have no mental strength you are liable to go 5-0 down but we came back to draw 2-2.”
Barca manager Josep Guardiola said: “Last season we won every title on offer but in the Champions League we never played as well as we did tonight. We had a really big opportunity [to win the game] and we didn’t take advantage of it. To have controlled the game as we did fills me with pride. We felt we did everything we could in order to take a big step to qualifying for the next round but at this level the teams are so strong.”
Italian champions Internazionale will take a slender advantage to the Luzhniki Stadium next Tuesday after their narrow defeat of Russians CSKA Moscow.
After an ordinary first-half, Inter emerged in the second stanza a different team with Wesley Sneijder influential but CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev kept them at bay. That was until Diego Milito broke the deadlock with his first chance. Minutes later Goran Pandev had a shot saved off the line leaving Inter disappointed not to build on their lead.
Inter boss Jose Mourinho said: “We played in a way where we should be able to be already thinking about the semi-finals, but unfortunately, we are not and we have a difficult game in Moscow to come.”
CSKA boss Leonid Slutsky said: “We only lost 1-0, which means there is still a lot to play for during the return leg. It was tough to contain Inter because we were unable to score, as there was too much pressure on us.”
Last season’s beaten finalists Manchester United must defeat German giants Bayern Munich at Old Trafford after seeing the Bundesliga club scored twice late to win the first-leg in Bavaria.
Wayne Rooney had nodded United ahead early and the Red Devils looked in control, until Franck Ribery’s 76th minute fortuitously deflected free-kick. Then in injury-time, Ivica Olic pounced on Patrice Evra’s touch to net a dramatic winner. And to make matters worse for the English side, Wayne Rooney was injured late.
Bayern boss Louis van Gaal said: “We really deserved this win. The goal against us was a shock. We took ten minutes to recover, then we were the better side. The equaliser with a deflected free-kick was definitely lucky. But then Olic excelled with the winner. We have a chance to succeed in Manchester as we are always capable of scoring a goal away from home.”
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “It will be a different game at Old Trafford. We’ll certainly be much better, there’s no question about that. We won’t be giving the ball away as we did tonight and hopefully we can recover. We’ve got the away goal, which is an advantage, and we’ll be going out to win the game.”
A double from Lyon’s Lisandro Lopez has put them firmly in control of their tie against fellow French outfit Bordeaux ahead of the return match at the Stade Chaban Delmas.
Lopez opened the scoring early, but Maraoune Chamakh replied almost immediately only for Lyon to push on with Michel Bastos restoring their lead. Bordeaux hit back but Lyon luckily won a penalty late which Lopez converted.
Lyon boss Claude Puel said: “For the second leg we’re without Lisandro, who was huge for us tonight. We’re also without Sidney Govou, who is also suspended, and they have [Alou] Diarra back. It’s open. Now we focus on recovering because all the players gave a lot. Credit to the substitutes, they also did well. After the early goals all the plans we had were blown away. We had one thing to do: take control of the game and win it.”
Bordeaux boss Laurent Blanc added: “The early goals made the game very open. We put in place a plan for the first 15 minutes, though we did not plan for Lyon scoring twice. Although we lost, I might surprise you by saying I’m very happy with how my team performed tonight.”
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