It was a classic final matchday in the round of 16 as Bayern Munich launched a stunning comeback from 2-0 down to win 4-2 against Juventus in Germany and oust last season's runner-up in extra time 6-4 on aggregate.
Barcelona beat Arsenal 3-1, receiving goals from Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi to join Bayern in Friday’s quarterfinal draw. For Barcelona, it's a ninth straight trip to the quarters. For Arsenal, it's a sixth straight elimination at this stage.
On a dramatic night of action, the results leave both of the favorites still in contention. Here is what caught our eye:
Goal of the Day: Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
|Manchester City||Atletico Madrid|
Barcelona barely got out of third gear in this tie, nor did it need to. Arsenal’s performance was in keeping with previous second legs at this stage of the competition; the tactics were clear, the result restored (some) pride and yet the outcome was the same: elimination. Fans have seen the same pattern against Monaco, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the past.
The high point for away fans was the second-half strike from January signing Mohamed Elneny, who ran onto Alexis Sanchez’s pass and curled a first-time shot into the roof of the net. That made it 1-1, as Neymar had given the host an early lead, but any hopes of an unlikely comeback were extinguished by a glorious Suarez volley that seemed impossible to execute. It was goal No. 17 for Suarez in his last 14 games – not many were better than this.
Players of the Day: Alvaro Morata (Juventus)/Kingsley Coman (Bayern)
Morata saved his best last season for the big games and the same was true in Munich this season. He was unplayable for large parts of this game, leading the line in front of Pogba, Hernanes and Cuadrado with a masterclass, closing down, finding space and giving David Alaba one of his toughest games in defense. Morata made Juventus’s second goal, one similar to Barcelona’s second at the Emirates Stadium in its first leg against Arsenal; the ball was on the edge of Juventus’s own area before it broke to Morata.
The Spaniard ran half the length of the pitch, shrugging off David Alaba, ghosting past Medhi Benatia and dribbling around Joshua Kimmich before, on the edge of the area, squaring it to Juan Cuadrado. The Juve winger had stayed onside perfectly and he kept his composure to jink past Philipp Lahm and smash the ball inside Manuel Neuer’s near post. It put Juventus 2-0 up, deservedly so, and left pre-match favorite Bayern on the ropes.
It took 13 seconds from Alaba, somehow popping up in the center forward position (it summed up his erratic night) losing the ball to Cuadrado bulging the net.
Morata went off with 22 minutes left and with him went any attacking threat that Juventus carried. It meant Bayern was allowed to push the visitors deeper, and it made more inroads when Kinglsey Coman came off the Bayern bench.
The French sub, in Munich on a two-year loan deal from Juventus, cut the ball back for Douglas Costa to cross for Robert Lewandowski’s goal to pull Bayern within one. Coman then crossed on 90 minutes for Muller to head home a dramatic equalizer.
With Bayern in the ascendancy, a final change from Guardiola saw Thiago Alcantara come on for Franck Ribery, and he put Bayern 3-2 up in the second half of extra time after a smart one-two with Muller.
Coman made the game safe two minutes later, running from inside his own half and curling the ball over Gianluigi Buffon to complete an astonishing comeback.
Guardiola’s subs paid off in the end–but maybe if they had started it might not have looked so desperate for them.
Moment of the Day: Neuer’s miraculous save on Cuadrado
The Bayern-Juve tie was a classic; even better than the first leg, which it echoed. The away side dominated the first hour and the host gradually came into it and equalized. Though the deciding moment of the tie came in extra-time, there were so many other moments that counted.
The clock read 90:06 when Muller headed home Coman’s cross from the right to force extra time. But it might never have come to that if Juventus had not missed a chance to go 3-0 up just before halftime.
After dominating the first half and scoring through Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado, there was a chance to get one more shortly after. Pogba, who had opened the scoring early on after an error from Alaba, broke down the left flank and turned Benatia inside out; he squared the ball and at the far post, Cuadrado only had to tap the ball in. But Neuer somehow made up the ground to deflect the ball against the post.
Bayern’s late goals brought it back into the game; but after such a shaky first 40 minutes, that moment from Neuer proved to be crucial.
Major Takeaway of the Day: Guardiola’s dream lives on
The Pep obituaries were minutes from being published. Only last week former president Uli Hoeness, fresh out of prison, reminded us that Guardiola was signed “to win the Champions League at least once.” The way Bayern played the first 60 minutes, it looked unlikely that it would happen this season; in fact, this looked like being a worse night than Bayern’s other heavy European eliminations under Pep; the 5-0 to Real Madrid in 2014 and 5-3 to Barcelona in 2015, both in the semifinals.
The simple narrative seemed to be that announcing Guardiola is off to Manchester City and Carlo Ancelotti coming in to replace him has had a negative effect on both teams; it’s true that City has slumped in the Premier League since the news broke.
But Guardiola would never allow his team to drop its level at all, which is why the first period of this match came as such a surprise.
Bayern was 2-0 up in Turin and found itself 4-2 down before halftime in Munich. That will no doubt infuriate Guardiola, but after a thrilling tie, it will at least be his team that is in Friday’s draw, and not Juventus. Its coach, Max Allegri, deserves credit too–it was without Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio and Paulo Dybala and still outplayed the host for an hour. And yet you cannot help but wonder just how much the substitution of Morata helped Bayern wrest back some initiative.
Quarterfinal outlook for Barcelona, Bayern
Three of the eight teams left in the competition have the mark of Guardiola on them. There is Pep’s past, in Barcelona; his future, in Manchester City; and, by the skin of its teeth, his present, in Bayern Munich.
Barcelona and Bayern are the favorites to go all the way and there's plenty of chances that the quarters will inclued a Pep Derby of some kind: Either Bayern versus City or a repeat of last year’s semifinal, Barcelona versus Bayern. The neutral’s pick would be that latter two teams avoid each other until they reach the final.
This competition has made a habit of throwing up surprise finalists in the last three years; but it’s worth remembering that the team which has beaten Bayern Munich in the last two years has ended up winning the Champions League. Will it happen again?