If watching people run around for 90-plus minutes and come away without a win or loss is your thing, Tuesday night's Champions League quarterfinal matches likely struck your fancy.
In results that will come as mostly a surprise, both Manchester United-Bayern Munich and Barcelona-Atletico Madrid ended in similar 1-1 draws. The old saying goes ties are like kissing your sister. But for United and Madrid, those draws likely felt like unforeseen triumphs that could send them vaulting into the next round.
Or it could ultimately be meaningless. The wonderful thing about both of these matches ending in draws is that everything will come down to the second leg, and if there is anything we consistently learn in Champions League, it's that you need to take care of winnable matches. Now, all four clubs are one bad result away from elimination.
Keep in mind that at least one of these clubs (*ahem* Manchester United *ahem*) may be playing to determine their managerial status. Obviously that's speculation at this juncture, but given the quick-hook nature of many clubs across the world, reaching the Champions League semifinals is no small deal.
With that in mind, let's check in on Tuesday's results and recap what they mean for the clubs going forward.
Manchester United 1, Bayern Munich 1
Some how, some way, Manchester United keep making their breaks. In what's been an otherwise nightmare season for the Red Devils, their ability to come through in Champions League may yet save David Moyes from being sacked. Their 3-0 win over Olympiakos to advance to the quarterfinal was one of the more improbable results of this season, and they coupled that with a key 1-1 draw with Bayern on Tuesday.
On the surface, the match may look like a boost to the German side. They mostly dominated for the entire 90 minutes, holding possession for 74 percent of the match and outshooting United, 16-6. Getting a draw on an opponent's home side is nearly as good of a win in the aggregate, and all Bayern will have to do is come out on top in the second leg to advance.
Their ability to do so, however, has been irreparably harmed.
In what will be a call that will receive drastically different reaction in Germany and England, Bayern star Bastian Schweinsteiger was hit with a second yellow on a tackle on United's Wayne Rooney, causing his expulsion from the match. The hit came in the 90th minute, and to some it appeared as if Rooney took a dive to get the call.
Whether he did or did not, the result is devastating to Bayern. Javi Martinez had already drawn a yellow earlier in the match, which will disqualify him for the second leg. That leaves Pep Guardiola having to rework his entire midfield. Thiago Alcantara already suffered a knee injury last Saturday versus 1899 Hoffenheim, which will undoubtedly keep him out of the second leg as well.
As for who will play in the midfield for Guardiola, well, umm, does anyone have extra cleats lying around. United are going to go from a disadvantage arguably into a strong advantage in the middle of the field, meaning Bayern may not be able to control the pace as well as they did Tuesday.
Because Bayern looked like the superior side for much of the first leg. After a scoreless first half that saw numerous chances go without a score, Nemanja Vidic netted a fantastic header through to put the home side ahead by a goal. Schweinsteiger needed all of eight minutes to answer, though, which sent an aggressive reverberation through the Bayern sideline.
Most of the match was played on United's side of the field, but they cannot be anything less than pleased with the effort. Advantage certainly goes to the home side in these matches, and Bayern will be motivated by the loss of key players. That said, Moyes has to feel better than ever about improbably moving toward the semis.
Barcelona 1, Atletico Madrid 1
Speaking of unexpected. Perhaps Champions League clubs have been watching the NCAA tournament stateside and decided to enact an "anything can happen" policy to what seems like predictable events.
Either way, Barcelona at Camp Nou scrambling to just get a 71st-minute goal from Neymar to equalize is bordering on even the lines of March Madness. Much like Bayern, Barcelona spent much of their evening nearing the goal but not actually putting the inflated, spherical object through it. They held possession for 71 percent of the contest, forced six Atletico yellow cards and outshot their La Liga-leading counterparts 19-6.
Barcelona had eight corner kicks. Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta had goal-scoring opportunities in the final minutes that came and went with sterling stops. It's been an improbably brilliant campaign for Atletico as a whole, but their 1-1 draw here may be among the unlikeliest outcomes—at least when viewing it from a statistical lens.
Then again, watching the match live, you could tell some strange tomfoolery was going on. That's pretty much the only way to describe Diego Ribas' sterling goal in the 56th minute. Maybe it was divine kicktervention? OK, sorry.
But Diego's goal was certainly something special. Taking the ball well beyond the penalty line and only getting slight separation from his defender, Diego uncorked one of the finest shots of the Champions League season—a rocket over the right top corner that went over the outstretched arms of Jose Manuel Pinto.
Ben Hayward of Goal.com noted this may be an area where Barcelona was missing starting goalkeeper Victor Valdes:
Diego's goal was a superb strike, but I'm pretty sure Valdés would have saved that at his near post.— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) April 1, 2014
Ultimately, Neymar came through 15 minutes later for the home side so they could escape a frustrating defeat. With a 1-1 aggregate heading into the second leg, though, Atletico have to feel like they're in a good position to advance.
So much of their season has been defined by doing just enough in key moments. They've scored 20 fewer goals than Barcelona and 17 less than Real Madrid, but their ability to lock down defensively and escape has pushed them to the top of La Liga. One more such performance and Atletico will head to the Champions League semifinals.
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