Winners and Losers from Champions League Last 8 2nd Leg: Real Thank St Iker
The identity of this season’s four UEFA Champions League semi-finalists are now known following four memorable and intriguing last-eight clashes this week in Europe’s premier club competition.
And so these are the various winners and losers from those four second-leg ties involving some of the continent’s biggest teams…
Inside the Masterful Mind of Mou
It is no coincidence that Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho made history on Tuesday night by reaching a record-breaking eighth UEFA Champions League semi-final, and fifth in a row, following his side’s dramatic elimination of Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge.
The Special One, who has still to lose a quarter-final tie in Europe’s premier club competition thanks to Demba Ba’s late, late strike in West London, gave us all an insight after the full-time whistle into the extraordinary levels of pre-match preparation and detail that he and his backroom staff are renowned for.
Mourinho revealed that he and his team had trained specifically at their Cobham HQ on Monday for a scenario where they would be chasing the game with half an hour remaining, which would necessitate the use of three out-and-out strikers supplied by direct balls from the back, as opposed to midfield.
"We risked everything," said Mourinho per Sky Sports."Demba, Nando [Fernando Torres] and [Samuel] Eto'o all played together and we tried to play direct because our midfield were really tired and broken, but also because Paris were in that situation and we know that they are not adapted to this kind of football.
"In France, they completely dominate and the style of French football has nothing to do with this direct approach."
And even Mou’s last-gasp touchline run to seemingly celebrate with his players following Ba’s 87th-minute strike, so reminiscent of scenes at Old Trafford in 2004 while the Portuguese was in charge of Porto, had a tactical motive behind it.
"It was not to celebrate," Mourinho explained post match per the Guardian. "It was to tell the players how we had to play the last few minutes. I knew at that moment they wanted to celebrate, to think the game is over.
“They forget that they had three plus three or four other minutes to play, and the way we were playing we couldn't carry on winning 2-0. I had to go there because it would be the only chance I'd have to tell Demba, Fernando and [Andre] Schurrle what to do in the last seven minutes. But you could see I can still run…
5 - José Mourinho have now reached the Champions League semi-finals in the last five seasons. Special— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 8, 2014
Not All Rosy in the Garden of Eden
Even if it turns out that Chelsea’s star man, Eden Hazard, only suffered a minor calf strain during Tuesday evening’s 2-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, the Blues are still likely to be without their diminutive playmaker for at least the next fortnight at a time in the season when they can least afford to be without the youngster.
The twinkle-toed Belgium international limped off after just 18 minutes at Stamford Bridge with what turned out to be a muscle-related injury in his leg, with the 23-year-old now in serious danger of missing crucial fixtures this month both in Europe and at home.
"It is a calf problem, but I have no idea the dimension of his injury," said Mourinho in his post-match press conference, per BBC Sport Online.
"Even when they are not serious, you cannot play for a couple of weeks."
And if that is the case, then Hazard will be struggling to be fit for the first leg of the Blues’ Champions League semi-final on 22/23 April, as well as their vital trip to face title rivals Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League on 27 April.
Los Blancos Offer Up a Prayer of Thanks to St. Iker
Not for the first time during the course of the last 15 years, Real Madrid were grateful to goalkeeper Iker Casillas on Tuesday for keeping alive their dream of La Decima after a nervy night at the Westfalenstadion.
The Spain international, who only plays for Los Blancos in Europe these days, was called upon to pull off several outstanding saves that prevented Borussia Dortmund from turning the quarter-final tie completely on its head, while also reminding the watching world just what a class act he still is.
"That was too much suffering and I think it was deserved," said Casillas after the match per the Guardian. "But from time to time it's good to have this kind of wake-up call that reminds us it's not always easy, and especially not in the Champions League.
"It is better that it happened in this game than in the decisive matches to come. We had to show quite a lot of mental strength because going 2-0 down by the 37th minute there were a lot of things going through our heads."
And so despite losing in the Ruhr Valley for the third straight occasion in the space of just over a year, Casillas and Co. have still made it through to their fourth UEFA Champions League semi-final in succession, while also remaining on course for a first European Cup triumph since St. Iker came off the bench to help beat Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.
No Cup with the Big Ears for Moyes and the Red Devils Next Season
David Moyes now faces the prospect of being the first Manchester United manager for 19 years not to be competing in the UEFA Champions League next season following Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to holders Bayern Munich in the second leg of their quarter-final clash.
The Premier League champions had stunned the Allianz Arena by taking a shock lead just before the hour-mark when left-back Patrice Evra scored perhaps his best-ever goal in a United shirt, seven years after his last effort in the competition.
However, crucially the visitors held their one-goal advantage for all of 22 seconds, before Bayern forward Mario Mandzukic calmly nodded home when unmarked six yards out, and thereafter the outcome of the tie was never in doubt as the Bavarians scored twice more.
And now Moyes has just five Premier League matches left this campaign before perhaps a decision is made on his Old Trafford future.
David Moyes: "My focus now is on getting this team back in the competition. Hopefully it will only be one year where we have to rebuild."— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 9, 2014
The End of a Camp Nou Dynasty?
You felt almost as though it was the end of a cycle at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night as Barcelona failed to make it through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2007, following a 1-0 loss to Liga rivals Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last-eight clash.
The Spanish champions had few real answers to the home team’s early onslaught as they exited Europe’s premier club competition 2-1 on aggregate, with Gerard Martino becoming the first Barca coach for 11 years to lose a Champions League quarter-final.
And in the end, not even Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi, who went into the tie having scored 19 times in 20 previous away matches in the tournament, could grab the equaliser needed to send the game into extra time.
Atleti’s Double Dream Remains Alive
Atletico Madrid reached their first European Cup semi-final since 1974 on Wednesday evening thanks to a 2-1 aggregate victory over Barcelona in their last-eight showdown in the Spanish capital, their first win over Barca for four years.
The home team, who had to make do without leading scorer Diego Costa through injury, won the second-leg tie 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon thanks to Spain midfielder Koke’s early close-range finish.
However, Atleti were well worth their win in the end after striking the woodwork on three separate occasions in the opening 20 minutes, while largely keeping the Liga champions at arms’ length throughout what was an absorbing contest.
And with Diego Simeone’s men having conceded a miserly five goals so far throughout the entire competition, none of the other three teams will relish having to visit the Calderon in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, after avoiding defeat against the Catalan giants for the fourth time already this season, Atletico will now approach the title run-in, including a final-day trip to Barcelona, with renewed confidence as they seek to protect their narrow one-point lead with just six games of the campaign remaining.
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