UEFA Champions League

Jaime Halstuch
Stillman News Writer

The UEFA Champions League is now in play and the bar could not be higher, and the teams have delivered. It was an amazing first leg with four extremely entertaining games at the highest level possible. The biggest question is how we can watch the two games each day at the same time. City and Madrid gave a spectacle, Bayern and Arsenal delivered, Dortmund and Atletico didn’t disappoint, and Barça and PSG never failed to give a competitive match. This is possibly the only opportunity that Bayern, Dortmund, Atletico, and Barcelona must save the season. City and Arsenal are head-to-head competing for the EPL, and the lack of rest factor could play an important role in their players. And then there is Real Madrid, who must tie El Clasico and not mess up badly to become La Liga champions. Important to remember that the bracket is set: the winner of Real Madrid v Manchester City will play the winner of Arsenal V Bayern Munich, and the winner of PSG v FC Barcelona will play the winner of Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund.

Another magical UEFA Champions League night at Santiago Bernabeu. The best game of the first leg and one of the best games of all time was Real Madrid v Manchester City. Games like this remind us why this is “the beautiful game.” Soccer at its highest level with a masterclass by both Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti. It was a very tactical game, and it was clear that both teams had studied up to the smallest detail of their rival; great execution by both. Real Madrid suffered Courtois’s absence as Lunin could have done more in City’s first goal. City, who had Ederson on the bench, had bad luck in Real’s first two goals as they were both deflected by defenders. Without Kevin de Bruyne, who was not feeling good on the matchday, City had to come back in the second half, and they did with two astonishing rockets.

Arsenal and Bayern also gave us a spectacular game. In a very fast-paced game, Gnabry, Sane, Martinelli, and Saka are very entertaining players to watch, giving a great pace to the game. We watched a prime Sane performance; he was dribbling and cutting into the inside, generating opportunities for his team. On the other hand, Laimer showed that although he is a good player, he is not Bayern Munich quality. Saka opened the score with a screamer, again starting from the inside out, and shooting to the second post. Gnabry ties the game after a very rare sight of two Arsenal players losing their backs. 30 minutes into the second half, Arsenal, after making 4 substitutions, tied the game with a great play by Gabriel Jesus, who came in from the bench and assisted Trossard.

Mbappe (Photo courtesy by Aurelien Morissard)

Moving to the other side of the bracket, Dortmund started very slowly but came out alive. Griezmann pressures Matsen, forcing him into an error, and De Paul recovers the ball right outside the box and scores. long a throw-in by Atletico, Schlotterbeck goes to hit but doesn’t, and the ball bounces on Hummels, It took Atletico 3 touches to score their second goal. In the second half, Brandt was subbed in for Dortmund and completely changed the game. Atletico parked the bus and gave Dortmund control of the game. Haller gave life to Dortmund in the 85th minute with a goal that allowed them to go home one goal behind. The Signal Iduna Park is not an easy stadium to play in, and the teams know it. Atletico will not have Lino as he is suspended, but they have Riquelme and Reinildo as options. Dortmund will try to use their home advantage in their favor, but no one knows how to defend games like this.

PSG was surprised by FC Barcelona in the Parc des Princes and was the only team to lose at home in this first leg. Xavi’s game plan worked amazingly in the first half; Mbappe was nowhere to be seen thanks to Kounde, and Raphinha scored to take the game 1-0 at halftime. In the second half, PSG scored two goals in the first five minutes. Later, Christensen was subbed in, and on the first ball he touched, he scored after a great corner kick by Gundogan. Barcelona takes a one-goal advantage at home and will close the series at Montjuic.

There are great games and a lot of pressure on the teams, and by Wednesday, we will know what the semifinals will look like. This is the UEFA Champions League, enjoy.

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