Champions League Round of 16 closes its first leg

Nicolas Al Ferzly

Staff Writer

 

From Manchester City’s thrilling encounter with Monaco to Leicester City’s first participation in the knockout phases of the Champions League, this week’s games did not fail to please.

What better way is there to start than with the exhibition that took place at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Tuesday night? The tactical encounter between Leonardo Jardim and Pep Guardiola was one of the most entertaining Champions League matches we have seen in a long time.

The similar tactical physiognomy of Manchester City and Monaco led to a fascinating offensive showdown with a total of 8 goals scored while the lead changed impressively for four times. Monaco’s deadly attacking duo, French youngster Kyllian Mbappe and Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao, scored three goals for the team. However, Guardiola’s attacking trident, led by Sergio Aguero, had the power to respond to the Ligue 1 leaders. The Argentinian striker scored two goals out of five, with the remaining three goals coming from Raheem Steling, Leroy Sane and John Stones to overcome AS Monaco with a score of 5-3.

Next we move on to Germany, where Bayer Leverkusen faced the vice-champions of Europe, Atletico Madrid. Diego Simeone’s men started off strongly, taking a 2-0 lead within 25 minutes thanks to Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann. German winger Karim Bellarabi responded at the start of the second half but Leverkusen were brushed off by Atletico’s offensive potent, as Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres recorded two crucial away goals to end the first leg 4-2.

Wednesday’s games were less abundant in goals but, nonetheless, they were filled with surprises and excitement. Though deprived of their charismatic leader Leonardo Bonucci, Serie A leaders Juventus still managed to secure a hard-fought win against a stubborn Porto side. It was a frustrating night for the Italian giants, who had to wait until the 72nd minute to get a leg up on Porto. Max Allegri’s use of the bench proved to be the right move as his two super subs Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves scored the only two goals of the game.

In what would turn out to be Claudio Ranieri’s last game in charge, Leicester City were dominated in all sector of the game by an energetic Sevilla. The Andalusian side enjoyed a comfortable 72 percent of the ball possession and registered 22 shots on Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.

Nevertheless, the 2016 English champions did what they do best and resisted before they scored the valuable away goal through their hard-working striker Jamie Vardy. Sevilla’s coach Jorge Sampaoli will have enough motives for the second leg since the game ended 2-1, a score line which unfortunately does not reflect his team’s powerful display. It was a sad night in Andalusia, with Claudio Ranieri taking over Leicester for the last time. The same, however, cannot be said of the thrilling batch of games Europe’s premier competition had to offer.

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