In a drama-filled day in the Champions League, Manchester United erased a two-goal deficit against Olympiacos to advance to the quarter-finals.
Zenit St. Petersburg were not able to overturn their two-goal deficit as Borussia Dortmund earned advancement. Zenit made a brief run at the comeback, while the United match had drama until the final whistle.
Have a look at the scores, then we'll delve deeper into the recap.
|Home Team||Score||Away Team||Aggregate|
|Borussia Dortmund||1-2||Zenit St. Petersburg||Dort, 5-4|
|Manchester United||3-0||Olympiacos||Man, 3-2|
Borussia Dortmund vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Facing a two-goal deficit and playing at Signal-Iduna Park, there was little reason for FC Zenit to have any optimism.
In the 16th minute, Hulk blasted through that feeling of hopelessness. The 27-year-old Brazilian put Zenit on the board first with a mammoth left-foot shot.
Football Vine passed along this glimpse of Hulk's spectacular goal:
HULK SMASH. http://t.co/pMu7m1tIik— Football Vines (@Vine_Football) March 19, 2014
Unfortunately for Zenit, that was one of their two shots for the half, and Borussia were not going away. Sebastian Kehl leveled the match in the 38th minute, and the first half ended locked at one apiece.
Borussia fired off six more shots than their opponents in the first half, despite being the side protecting a lead.
Aiming to hold on to their lead, Borussia slowed the action down in the second. This forced Zenit to become more aggressive and it worked. Jose Rondon picked up a goal in the 73rd minute to put Zenit ahead 2-1.
Still, Zenit needed two more goals to advance, and Borussia were not about to give them up.
It was a slow finish which is exactly what Borussia wanted. Zenit won the match 2-1, but Borussia Dortmund are through to the next stage.
They will now await the draw to find out their quarter-final opponenst. Borussia will have to add that to a busy schedule. The German side have three Bundesliga matches by March 29, but sitting in second place, they trail table leaders Bayern Munich by 23 points.
In other words, they will be able to make Champions league success a priority.
Manchester United vs. Olympiakos
With Manchester United trying to overcome a two-goal deficit but enjoying home advantage, there was reason for optimism about a comeback.
What turned out to be more important than home pitch for United was having a fit and motivated Robin van Persie.
The Dutch striker has not been shy about his longing for Champions League success. ESPN's Graham Hunter passed along this van Persie quote:
RVP backed up those comments with a brilliant performance.
After he was pushed in the back while collecting a cross, van Persie connected on a penalty in the 25th minute to open the scoring. He followed that up with a goal right before half-time to tie the aggregate at two.
Half-time did nothing to slow van Persie down. He netted his third goal in the 51st minute:
With the hat-trick, van Persie made Manchester United history:
Robin van Persie is the first United player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League knockout stages. What a time to do it.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 19, 2014
Although van Persie was the day's hero, this was far from a one-man team. Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs led a strong effort from the midfield that helped the Red Devils own 55 percent of possession.
Meanwhile, David De Gea came up huge in goal. A Football Report expands:
Robin will deservedly get the headlines, but United's unsung hero tonight was David De Gea. What a performance. https://t.co/bM6pAIFaxV— A Football Report (@afootballreport) March 19, 2014
The Red Devils must try to build on the momentum of this come-from-behind win. The defending Premier League champs are seventh in league, a full 12 points behind fourth-place Manchester City who have played two fewer matches.
Making things even more difficult is the fact that van Persie picked up a late injury after his heroics and may face the possibility of missing time. Goal UK provides a story on RVP's injury.
Our story on Robin van Persie's late injury: http://t.co/B7w9riqUZj— Goal UK (@GoalUK) March 19, 2014
At this point, any success that the Red Devils can sustain will be welcomed, but this team must make Champions League success its priority. That is the only way to salvage an otherwise lost season.