Quarter Final line-up completed in the Champions League

by Ger McCarthy

Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid qualified for quarter finals of the 2011 Champions League following an exciting week’s action which saw the Round of 16 completed writes Ger McCarthy.

Round of 16 – Second Leg,
Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United 2 Olympique Marseille 1 (Man Utd win 2-1 on agg.)

For the fifth year in a row Manchester United qualified for the last eight of the UEFA Champions League following a 2-1 victory over Marseille at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening. A brace of Javier Hernandez goals proved enough to send Sir Alex Ferguson’s side through despite a Wes Brown own goal making for a somewhat nervy finale.

United progressed without ever hitting top gear (a theme repeated many times this season) and utilising the makeshift centre-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Wes Brown. United’s two central defenders endured a difficult evening and were it not for some wayward shooting from Gignac and Remy Marseille could and should have registered on the score-sheet long before Brown put through his own net late on. Didier Deschamps’ team were toothless for much of the opening 45 minutes but pressed further forward in the second half. OM lacked a killer punch up front however and a succession of opportunities to breach a shaky looking United rearguard were squandered.

A virtuoso performance from Wayne Rooney helped steady the ship and the home side converted two opportunities courtesy of Hernandez’s clinical finishing to take their place in the quarter final draw. Rooney was involved in both goals and revelled in a more withdrawn role which saw the England international spray passes to all four corners of the pitch and link brilliantly with his Mexican strike partner to devastating effect.

Verdict

Sir Alex Ferguson will be relieved to have gotten past a plucky Marseille side shorn a host of first team regulars including Vidic and Ferdinand. More difficult challenges lie ahead if United are to get to Wembley for the 2011 Champions League final and in truth, better opposition would have converted the chances created in a wet Old Trafford on Tuesday evening.

Chris Smalling and Wes Brown provided a shaky defensive platform at best but the return to form of Wayne Rooney could not be better timed with 10 rounds of the Premier League plus CL quarter and semi finals to negotiate in the coming weeks. The last word should go to Javier Hernandez whose movement and finishing proved the ultimate difference between the sides.

Round of 16 – Second Leg,
Allianz Arena, Munich
Bayern Munich 2 Inter Milan 3 (Inter win on away goals rule – 3-3 on agg.)

Inter Milan became the first team since Ajax back in 1996 to overturn a first leg defeat (at home) and qualify for the quarter finals of the Champions League. Bayern and Inter served up a five goal thriller in front of a packed Allianz Arena on Tuesday evening in which Leonardo’s side came from 2-1 down to eventually win 3-2 to go into the hat for Friday’s draw.

Samuel Eto’o broke the deadlock with only four minutes elapsed to draw the sides’ level on aggregate. Julio Cesar was guilty of another goalkeeping mishap hour however with Mario Gomez capitalising on the Italian’s mistake for the second time in as many games to push Munich 2-1 ahead. Thomas Muller looked to have ended the tie as a contest with Bayern’s second on the night and a frantic end to the opening half saw the home side waste a plethora of additional chances.

Inter looked to be dead and buried when Thomas Muller lunged at a loose ball a yard from goal and with Cesar completely out of position. Somehow the German international contrived to wallop the ball off the upright and Inter hacked clear. That glaring miss would come back to haunt Munich as Inter re-emerged a different side in the second half. Samuel Eto’o was at the hub of Inter’s best moves on the night and the Cameroon international setup Wesley Sneijeder for a terrific 63rd minute goal to make it 2-2.

The reigning champions had little option but to go for a winner and with Bayern dropping further and further back into defence the Italians pounced for the fifth goal of the night with just two minutes remaining. Eto’o was the creator once again rolling the ball into the path of the in-rushing Pandev who executed a beautiful first-time curling effort into the top corner of the net. 3-2 on the night, 3-3 on aggregate and Inter went through on the away goals rule.

Verdict
The faces of the Bayern Munich players at the full time whistle following Tuesday night’s Round of 16 loss to Inter said it all. The Bundesliga side suffered a heart-breaking defeat to the Italians for a second time in consecutive Champions League campaigns to deny the Bavarians another tilt at European glory.

Louis Van Gaal was already on borrowed time coming into the tie but that 3-2 loss will surely speed up the Dutchman’s departure from the Allianz Arena as Bayern have little chance of winning any silverware in 2011. The contrast between the sour Germans faces and the beaming smiles of the visiting Italian fans could not have been starker.

An Inter side that have undergone a mid-season change in management showed flashes of some the performances which brought European glory when Jose Mourinho was at the helm last year. Inter’s superior finishing and especially their fighting qualities under Leonardo earned Inter a deserved spot in the quarter final draw.

If the likes of Eto’o, Sneijeder and Lucio can maintain their recent form then the European Cup holders will prove a difficult task for anyone in the last eight.

Round of 16 – Second Leg,
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Real Madrid 3 Olympique de Lyon 0 (Real win 4-1 on agg.)

Real Madrid made it into the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time in what has been seven long years for the Bernabeu faithful following a 3-0 win over Lyon on Wednesday evening. Real exorcised more than one ghost statistic on their home ground last night as Mourinho’s men knocked out a Lyon side they had failed to beat in any of their last six meetings. An early goal from Brazilian left back Marcelo set Madrid on their way to victory and two defensive lapses allowed Benzema and Di Maria complete the rout with second half strikes.

Lyon were caught off guard by a lightening start from the hosts and only the brilliance of goalkeeper Lloris kept Lyon from falling behind early on. Cristiano Ronaldo was in irresistible form on the left wing with a series of flicks and neat first touches prompting a number of early attacks. The opening goal was a long time coming but when it arrived in the 37th minute it was well worth the wait. Left back Marcelo had proved a constant thorn in the French side’s defence all evening and linked beautifully with Ronaldo before turning inside two defenders and slamming the ball past Lloris for a 1-0 lead. Benzema had a header ruled out for offside shortly afterwards as Madrid looked to kill off the tie.

The visitors responded and Real’s defence found themselves scrambling to clear on a number of occasions before the end of the half with Lisandro and Delgado offering Lyon hope. A slew of yellow cards failed to upset the home side’s rhythm however and a more determined second half display saw Real Madrid through. A long ball from Marcelo caught the Lyon defence napping in the 66th minute and the French international striker galloped through a gaping hole in the visitors’ defence before slipping the ball between Lloris’s legs. There was still time for Ozil to head on another long punt out of defence which allowed the impressive Di Maria to pounce from the edge of the box thanks to some slack Lyon defending.

Verdict
An important win for Real Madrid who will be in the hat for the quarter final draw on Friday relieved to have overcome their European bogey side Lyon following a confident 3-0 win. Despite the lop-sided scoreline there are still defensive worries to occupy the mind of Jose Mourinho ahead of Madrid’s last eight encounter.

The Spaniards looked susceptible to the long ball and a number of crosses caused panic in a defence which looked somewhat shaky when Lyon attacked down the flanks. Plenty to work on then but thanks to Mourinho, Real Madrid are back where they belong in the latter stages of the most prestigious competition in Europe.

Round of 16 – Second Leg,
Stamford Bridge, London
Chelsea 0 FC Copenhagen 0 (Chelsea win 2-0 on agg.)

A 0-0 draw was sufficient to send Carlo Ancellotti’s side through to the last eight of the Champions League at the expense of a plucky FC Copenhagen side. According to Opta Sports No goalless Champions League tie from 2006-07 onwards has seen as many shots as last night’s game in Stamford Bridge with 37 efforts attempted of which 25 belonged to the home side. Copenhagen’s bright pink jersey’s failed to dazzle a Chelsea side who were too compact at the back to ever allow the Danish club to get on the score sheet.

The big question ahead of kick off was who Ancellotti would select up front and on this occasion it was the misfiring Torres who had to make do with a place on the bench. Copenhagen, to their credit, took the game to Chelsea straight from the opening whistle but a combination of poor finishing and some dogged Chelsea defending kept the visitors out. Chelsea finally kicked into gear and the Anelka / Drogba partnership began to ask questions of the Danish back four. Goalkeeper Johan Wiland proved a hero on the night, pulling off a string of top class saves. The second half was as frenetic going forward as the first and the introduction of Torres, whilst lifting the home supporters, did not have the desired effect.

Verdict
The tie ended 0-0 amid a chorus of boos echoing around Stamford Bridge even though Chelsea went through 2-0 on aggregate. What the tie clearly demonstrated is that Ancellotti still hasn’t settled on his most effective first eleven and the arrival of Torres has not had the desired effect with the Spanish international yet to find the net.

None of these points are likely to trouble Ancellotti however as he and Chelsea look forward to the quarter final draw and irrespective of their performances over the two legs with Copenhagen the Londoners will be a match for anyone in the last eight.

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