The stage is now set. Liverpool have made it into their first Champions League Final since 2005, where they won it, to take on Real Madrid who’re on course to win their third European title in 3 years.
On the flipside, Arsenal failed to give Wenger a great send-off when they were knocked out of the Europa League. Elsewhere, in the Premier League, Manchester United slipped against Brighton, while Chelsea overcome Champions League finalists. Here’s a roundup of the top games this past week:
UEFA Champions League 2017/18 Semi-final (Leg 2 of 2)
Real Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich had the strategy correct from the first whistle at the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu, and that was to bombard Real Madrid with a foray of attacking football. The German side took the lead only 3 minutes in, but they lost it 5 minutes later.
Los Blancos have Navas and Ramos to thank for saving them on several occasions, denying Bayern several goals they deserved – considering how they were constantly knocking on Real’s door. Ulreich, who has been great while standing in for the injured Neuer, had to be blamed for a slip up which allowed Benzema to net his second of the night when he was caught in two minds to pick up or clear a back pass. It was indeed a wrong time to make a costly mistake.
Rodriguez, however, provided a saving grace and equalised on the 63-minute mark. When they just needed one goal, the rampage resumed with Bayern taking a total of 22 shots on goal. Controversy also ruined the evening for Heynckes when the referee failed to see Marcelo’s clear hand-ball in the penalty box. At the end of the day, the better team did not win, but Zidane should be thanking his lucky stars for barely making it into the fourth Champions League final in five seasons for the club.
AS Roma 4-2 Liverpool
Liverpool had a comfortable 5-2 lead heading into the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Stadio Olimpico, but they knew they were going to face the wrath of Roma having seen how the Italian side dispatched Barcelona in emphatic fashion in the quarter-finals.
Although Salah was uncharacteristically quiet, Mane stepped up to further dash the fairytale for Di Francesco’s men. Liverpool were prepared to soak up a lot of pressure, but they did not do a fantastic job of it. Milner’s own goal gave Roma some hope, but a poorly defended corner knocked another nail into the casket when Wijnaldum scored the Reds’ second.
Things eventually took a turn for Roma when bagged 3 goals in the second half, including a penalty in the dying seconds of the game. Liverpool can count themselves lucky to make it into the Champions League final for the first time since 2007, because if Roma had a little more time, they would have punished Klopp’s side for their shortcomings in defence.
UEFA Europa League 2017/18 Semi-final (Leg 2 of 2)
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Arsenal
It’s all over for Wenger as he will leave Arsenal with no silverware this season, and most notably, zero European titles to his name for the Gunners in 22 years. Costa scored the only goal of the match to help his team progress to the Europa League Final. The Spaniard could have scored more goals if he had better composure and less of his trademark temper tantrums.
Arsenal, however, were not entirely useless. Oblak was responsible for his ‘brick-wall’ antics, denying Xhaka’s powerful shot from range. Top that off with textbook defending from Godin, who blocked everything that came his way, preventing Ozil, Ramsey and Bellerin from wide positions, Wenger’s side had no real chance. As if the lost wasn’t enough, Koscielny picked up an Achilles injury that could rule him out of the 2018 World Cup.
English Premier League 2017/18 Week 37
Brighton 1-0 Manchester United
Manchester United were the clear favourites to win this tie, but injuries to Lukaku and Sanchez, along with a what Mourinho called ‘poor attitude’, caused the Red Devils a defeat at Falmer Stadium. Hughton’s forces were battling for Premier League survival and that ‘never-say-die’ mentality helped them overcome a strong Man Utd side.
Knockaert was Brighton’s lifeline in midfield as he caused United so many problems – his off -the-ball movement was exemplary. Mourinho’s forwards in the form of Rashford, Martial and later Lingard, were absolutely toothless and failed to find the net from their 16 shots on goal. Gross finally broke the deadlock for Brighton and the newly promoted side managed to organise themselves defensively to keep out the hungry Red Devils.
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
This is a clear example that anything can happen in football. Liverpool are on their way to their first Champions League Final since 2005 and when Klopp fielded a similar team that helped to get them there, we all thought that the Reds were going to be dominant and cement a top-4 Premier League finish.
Well, it looked that way for the first 30 minutes when the visitors to Stamford Bridge held majority of the possession and threatened to score several times – showing their usual attacking prowess. Courtois was the only man stopping the Liverpool with great saves until Giroud bagged a goal against the run of play. If there’s one thing the Reds’ defence are bad at, it’s defending crosses.
Conte played into their weakness and got his players to bang in crosses where possible and it finally paid off. Giroud not only used his strength in the air, but the Frenchman also worked very hard without the ball. Chelsea’s defensive strategy was also solid, always having 8 players around the ball and two forwards always ready to catch Liverpool on the break.
La Liga 2017/18 Week 36
Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
What an exciting game this was. It had all an El Clasico promised to deliver; goals, cards and exciting moments that will forever go down in history. These two teams were neck-and-neck from the get-go. Suarez scored within 10 minutes and Ronaldo equalised just 4 minutes later.
However, things took a turn just before the halftime whistle when Sergi was given his marching orders for slapping Marcelo. In the second period, it was Real’s match to win, but Valverde had other plans. He switched to a much more defensive approach, but directed Suarez to press Los Blancos from the top. The Uruguayan’s non-stop running eventually paid off when he dispossessed Varane to set up Messi to put Barcelona ahead for the second time in the game.
Barcelona were then set to absorb all that Real Madrid could offer, but with Ronaldo out injured, Zidane had to put faith in Benzema, Bale and Asensio. Credit to Barca for holding out Real with 10 men, but their efforts couldn’t stop the equaliser from an unlikely source – the Welshman Bale. Some may say that he didn’t deserve to be in the game after partaking in reckless challenges that should have seen him receive at least 2 yellow cards.
Nonetheless, his sumptuous finish with his left foot was fantastic enough to comfortably beat Ter Stegen. However, Barcelona still remain unbeaten in La Liga this season, and that looks to continue.
Ligue 1 2017/18 Week 36
Amiens 2-2 PSG
The French champions’ slump continued as they dropped points against mid-table Amiens. PSG’s rampant performances before they bagged the Ligue 1 title were a thing of the past, as they started the game with no desire whatsoever. It took them 26 minutes for Cavani to score from his umpteenth effort, but Konate’s tireless running paid off when he got the equaliser early in the second half.
Nkunku’s highlight reel of a goal lifted the Parisians’ spirits, but their poor defending shone brighter, and that allowed Konate to get his second. Mbappe was introduced with six minutes left and while he was a threat, Emery should have substituted the Frenchman a lot earlier to save his side the blushes.
PSG still have the Coupe de France to play for, and while they are boosted by Neymar’s return to the capital, it can’t be certain that we won’t see an upset at Stade de France on 9 May.
Bundesliga 2017/18 Week 33
Koln 1-3 Bayern Munich
Bayern were clearly feeling the effects of crashing out of the Champions League and this was confirmed when Sule inadvertently deflected Clemens’ cross-shot into his own net at the 30-minute mark. The Bavarians were constantly on the attack via Lewandowski, but the Koln keeper was beaming with confidence to deny the Polish forward with excellent saves.
One can only assume that his sudden hot form was due to the fact that he signed a new contract with the club. However, Heynckes must’ve given his men a lashing at the half-time team talk, because the Bundesliga champions entered the second period with a new lease of life.
Two quick-fire goals courtesy of Rodriguez and Lewandowski gave Bayern the lead, but it was Muller who did a lot of the legwork to provide the well-needed assists for them. And just to prove a point, and hammer the nail in the coffin, Rodriguez turned provider for substitute Tolisso to condemn Koln to the bottom of the table.
After a thrilling week of football, it’s quite interesting to see if Liverpool can be ready for a tough battle against Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. Or will it be a double triumph in Madrid when Atletico overcome Marseille in the penultimate game of the Europa League along with Los Blancos. While the fight for Champions League qualification continues, we will still be entertained in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!