Cristiano Ronaldo

When you think the Portuguese is slowing down, just when people start to think his influence in the team is waning, the five time world best player delivers to dump the people’s favourite out of the Champions League. Many – including Xavi – played down his role in Real Madrid’s triumph, insisting he was lucky to score with his knee and with a penalty. The 33 year old – and Real Madrid fans – wouldn’t care one jot how it came to be. There’s a fighter in Ronaldo, especially when people write him off. His appetite for silencing doubters is still very strong. Remarkable given his age and trophies garnered over the years.

What many wouldn’t deny is the quality of his header in the second leg. Just watch how long he hangs in the air before making the connection with the ball. The man’s a genius.

Real Madrid

Their domestic troubles are well documented. But Real Madrid have found a wonderful escape in the Champions League. They may be inconsistent in the league but are a different beast in the Champions League. Yes, the loss to Tottenham did hurt and it came when they were going through a tough time. The calmness in which they keep the ball under is a joy to watch.

Can you bet against them? I’m not sure.

Zinedine Zidane  

Showed admirable trust in his fringe players. Isco, Modric, Toni Kross and Gareth Bale were consigned to the bench as many eyebrows were raised in unison. Real Madrid had a healthy two goal head start coming into the second leg but the job was far from done. The rational decision is to start your best players but in came Kovacic, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asencio to start arguably the most important game of the season.

They more than matched their opponents, showing zest and a stubborn will to reward their manager for the faith put in them. They were disciplined and energetic. PSG’s midfield comprising of Rabiot, Verratti, and Thiago Motta couldn’t create chances nor stop Real attacks. Real Madrid needn’t be at their best, they only needed to stop PSG. They did that with exceptional quality and even more.

Zidane will be pleased with himself. Talks of him leaving after a poor campaign have since cooled.

Liverpool 

A goalless draw at home isn’t ideal unless you had put five past your opponent in the previous leg. Liverpool weren’t going to lose the tie after the first leg showing. It dimply allowed them a chance to rest their best players for the coming fixtures. Kloop will be looking at the quarter-final draw with no fear.

Juventus

Perhaps, you might decry their 4-2 aggregate win over Spurs as unfair but they will not care, why should they? Tottenham might have dominated over both legs but were outdone by that age long ingredient: Experience. Juventus had been in the final twice in the last three finals. They managed the games well not letting Tottenham spell with the ball translate into damaging goals. Think about Higuain’s penalty miss and the other glaring miss and you could say Tottenham were even lucky to be level after the first leg.

When they went 2-1 up, you would count on the defense to keep the score uncompromised. The defense which have always been the bedrock of the Old Lady’s success over the years stood firm under intense Tottenham pressure. Juventus have been desperately unlucky not to win at least one of those two aforementioned finals but they are still one of Europe’s top dogs and Tottenham learnt that in a cruel, heart aching fashion.

Gonzalo Higuain

The Argentine provided three goals across the two legged encounter; goals which helped his team overcome a difficult hurdle in Tottenham. There were many who questioned Juventus’s wisdom in bringing in a a striker near 30 for a fee of £90m. Those dissenting voices have quietened down with each sublime strike from the 30 year old. There are questions about his lack of goals and fight in the big games but the Argentine keeps answering those quesions with deadly alacrity.

Giorgio Chiellini

The Juventus legend is showing no signs of slowing down. Now 33 and slower, he makes up for the lack of pace with delicious time and awareness. He pretty much didn’t give Harry Kane a sniff. The Italian has been the bedrock of the Old Lady’s defensive astuteness. His calm demeanor and leadership were vital in taking Juventus to the quarter-final.

Manchester City

The four goal haul meant they could take a foot off the pedal. But still Pep Guardiola, the perfectionist, would be less than pleased with this defeat, however inconsequential. Still they have got the job done and are going on to the next round. They remain favourites, mind.

Losers

Tottemham 

A hard lesson in managing your game when in pole position. While many would laugh at Tottenham ‘Spursy’ inability to get the job done, this result was slightly unexpected – in truth. Praise, rightly, were deserved after overcoming an early hail in the first leg to equalise. Many expected Tottenham to finish off Juventus at home ground. But the Wembley ‘curse’ chose the wrongest time to rear it’s ugly head. It’s hard to blame Pochettino nor indeed the players. they were outdone by a more experienced team. It’s cruel, tough to swallow but Tottenham will live to fight another day.

The continued absence of Victor Wanyama

I’ve always been a fan of the Kenyan since his arrival at Spurs. His muscular approach and ‘thou shall not pass’ attitude to defending mirrored and suited his partner’s silky multi dimensional play- Dembele endeared him to the Tottenham faithful. It’s not known if the player and the manager have a falling out as the Tank hasn’t featured in many games.

Eric Dier might be a useful player but he’s not better at the defending aspect of his job than Wanyama. Would Higuain have found time to cradle the ball and pierce a through ball for Dybala to score the winner if he was on the pitch? Maybe, maybe not but the continued absence of the power house will hurt Spurs.

Pochettino needs explaining why his best defensive shield continues living on the bench, rather than on the field. It is one of several questions that may arise in the aftermath of their loss to Juventus.

Unai Emery and PSG

No fight, no sustained period of pressure, PSG were way too meek given their deficiency from the first leg. The absence of Neymar isn’t reason enough to have the strength of a mountain lion and then to fight like a mouse. Aterall, they lost 3-1 in the first leg with Neymar in the team. PSG were disgraceful in their attempts to overcome Real Madrid. Real Madrid are veterans in this wining the Champions league business but PSG, the upcoming contenders were way too fearful, too little risk and paid for their hesitancy.

For more on PSG and their clusterf**k, read my extended article on them.

FC Porto

Never stood a chance after the scoreline in the first leg. Where was this fight in the first leg? Any semblance of their display against Liverpool last night in their first meeting and they might have have a chance. But alas, they couldn’t turn up at home and paid dearly for it with their heaviest defeat in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

PSG fans 

Want your team to progress into the quarter-final of a competition where there is a slim chance of that happening. do you go pull pelt and get behind your team or detonate smoke bombs and interrupt proceedings. If you do the latter, congrtulations you’re a PSG fan.

 

 

 

Michael Okoye
Blogger/Football Analyst at Sportskick
Michael Okoye is an ardent football fan as well as a writer. He lives somewhere in West Africa with Lions and Leopards for company. He takes interest in football and detests mediocrity in sports writing. He has a massive man crush on Juan Mata. A Chelsea fan and a great lover of wits and sarcasm.
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