A rule change was created for this year’s Champions League knockout rounds, the removal of the away goals. Surprisingly, after the first leg, there are only two teams that would prefer to have that rule back in place for this campaign. Sporting CP is taking a five-nil score on aggregate into the Etihad Stadium in their second leg match. Scoring three goals rather than five would be a much more manageable task for the Portuguese champions. The other team would be Inter Milan, the reigning Italian champions who are carrying a one-goal two-goal deficit on aggregate into Anfield and would prefer to only score one goal to bring the match into penalties and two goals to move onto the quarterfinals.
Bayern Munich (7) vs. RB Salzburg (1) – Aggregate (8-2)
Bayern Munich showed that the first leg match-up was a fluke. The last match was a 1-1 draw in which RB Salzberg scored first and held the lead until the final minute when Kingsley Coman found the back of the net. In this match, it was all Bayern all the time. Robert Lewandowski re-wrote the Champions League record books in the first half an hour of the match. He scored the fastest hat trick in UCL history, scoring his three goals in 9 minutes. Gnarby, Müller and Sané joined the party scoring their own goals giving the Bavarian squad seven goals. RB Salzburg could only manage a single goal on the night off a brilliant top bins strike by Mauritis Kjaergaard.
Liverpool (0) vs. Inter Milan (1) – Aggregate (2-1)
Inter Milan had some work to do in this second leg after a miserable performance in the first leg. They were down two-nil on aggregate. Unfortunately, the rule change that UEFA implemented this year removes the away goal advantage and therefore, Inter would need to find two goals to get a draw. At the beginning of the match, it would prove difficult for Inter to find two goals as Liverpool had decided to play the match using a mostly defensive tactic throughout. But, Liverpool was sloppy with their play and gave Inter chances to capitalize on goal. It took until the 61st minute for Inter Milan to get their much-needed first goal but they immediately dashed their chances for a second one when Alexis Sanchez received his second yellow and a red card two minutes after their goal was scored. Liverpool could breathe a sigh of relief and hold onto the lead on aggregate until the final whistle.
Real Madrid (3) vs. PSG (1) – Aggregate (3-2)
A total meltdown by PSG in the final half-hour of the match cost them an opportunity to move onto the quarterfinals. The match began with a goal by Kylian Mbappé, who was the storyline for the first leg in Paris. He is also rumoured to be going to Madrid in the summer on a free transfer. All signs pointed to another showcase of what’s to come for Real Madrid. In the second half is when the collapse began, it started with a mistake by Donnarumma, who mishandled the pass back from his defenders because of the pressure from Karim Benzema. Vinicius Jr. was the recipient of the mistake and fed Benzema in the area to tie the match and bring the disadvantage on aggregate to one goal. It was not over for Benzema, he found the back of the goal again in the 76th minute to bring Real Madrid to a draw on aggregate. Less than a minute later, he iced the series for Madrid with his sensational hat trick goal.
Manchester City (0) vs. Sporting CP (0) – Aggregate (5-0)
It was an insurmountable feat for Sporting CP to have any opportunity to move on to the Champions League. They conceded five goals at home in the first leg and without the “away goals rule”, they had to score five goals to bring it to penalties and six goals to move on. Unfortunately, they could not even find a single goal on the night. They actually conceded a goal in the second half that was later disallowed by VAR due to an offside.
Machester City (0) vs. Atlético Madrid (1) – Aggregrate (1-2)
In this first of two matches of the evening that were tied on aggregate after the first leg, Manchester United and Atlético Madrid were both looking to a positive push to their disappointing season as of late. United are in a heated battle for the fourth spot in the Premier League but have been struggling in their performances and have turmoil in their dressing room. Atlético, the current LaLiga champions, have struggled to replicate their form of last year falling down the table due to poor performance. Since the first leg, Atléti has been on a positive upturn moving up to fourth in the LaLiga table. In the first half of the match, the play was tight with both teams trading chances. It was the 41st minute when the deadlock was broken by Atlético. Antoine Griezmann fed Renan Lodi with a brilliant cross that needed a simple header to find the back of the goal. In the second half, United played poorly and constantly argued to the referee as Atlético were working their time-wasting tactics. This result marks the first time that Cristiano Ronaldo was eliminated from the Champions League by Atlético Madrid.
Ajax (0) vs. Benfica (1) – Aggregate (2-3)
Benfica only needed one shot on goal to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Ajax dominated every aspect of this match; possession, shots and shots on target. But, they could not get score a goal that counted. Early in the match, Ajax found the back of the goal but it was called back due to an offensive offside. After this chance, their shots either went wide of the goal or were saved by Odysseas Vlachodimos. It was in the 77th minute that Benfica broke the hearts of the Ajax faithful. A free-kick at the side of the box led to a set play that Darwin Núñez perfectly timed his run to just beat Ajax keeper Onana to the ball with his head. Benfica was able to hold on the rest of the way for a victory. Ajax will be ruing their chances in both legs that they could not capitalize on that would have pushed them over the edge and into the quarterfinals.
Lille (1) vs. Chelsea (2) – Aggregate (1-4)
Lille needed to find two goals in this leg to draw on aggregate and force overtime. They made a positive step towards that goal when they were awarded a penalty kick after Jorginho used his elbow to block the ball in the area. Burak Yılmaz lined up for the shot and found an opening past Mendy. Unfortunately for Lille, Christian Pulisic scored in extra after forty-five minutes to tie the match. In the second half, it was back-and-forth play with Lille desperate to score another goal to minimize the deficit. César Azpilicueta had other ideas in the 71st minute putting the dagger in Lille’s chances to move on. Despite the chaos surrounding Chelsea due to the sanctions the UK government has put against their team and their owner, they proved that they are a resilient bunch and move onto the quarterfinals.
Juventus (0) vs. Villarreal (3) – Aggregate (1-4)
Juventus were all over Villarreal for roughly seventy-eight minutes of the match but a penalty kick awarded to Villarreal completely turned the tables. Dušan Vlahović and the rest of the Juve squad were pressuring Villarreal almost scoring in the first few minutes of the match but it was the woodwork and Gerónimo Rulli that denied Juve. In the 78th minute, Villarreal was awarded a penalty after Juventus defender Daniele Rugani stuck his leg out tripping Francis Coquelin in the box. Gerard Moreno took the penalty kick putting Villarreal ahead with twenty minutes to go. A second goal seven minutes later gave Villarreal a two-goal lead and finally a hand-ball penalty in stoppage times by Juve extended the lead to three. A complete collapse by Juventus caused a shocking result in Turin allowing the underdog team in Villarreal to advance to the quarters.