Liverpool See Off City, Roma Produce Stunning Upset to Topple Barcelona
The Champions League market underwent a serious shake-up after the first and second favourites ahead of the quarterfinals both crashed out on Tuesday.
Barcelona, runaway leaders in La Liga, and Manchester City, romping to victory in the Premier League, were sent crashing out by AS Roma and Liverpool respectively.
City’s downfall on Tuesday did not come as a surprise after their 3-0 loss in the first leg last week, but Barcelona’s eclipse after winning 4-1 in the first leg sent shockwaves through the world of football.
Pep Guardiola’s City made a flying start, with Raheem Sterling seizing on some slack defending from Virgil van Dijk to tee up Gabriel Jesus to score inside two minutes.
The crowd was pumped, City had their tails up and Liverpool was rocking. For a while, it looked like the comeback was on, but the Reds regrouped and the game felt done from the moment City had a goal by Leroy Sane wrongly disallowed for offside which resulted in Guardiola being sent to the stands for his protests.
The wind was taken from City’s sails by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz’s blunder, and Liverpool took advantage in the second half. Goals from Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino turned the tie on the night Liverpool’s way, as they progressed 5-1 on aggregate.
City did not have the rub of the green over the two legs, as a number of decisions went against them, but it’s tough to argue against such an overwhelming scoreline, and Liverpool will head to Friday’s Champions League draw full of confidence.
That confidence would have been fuelled after finding out that Barcelona had capitulated in Rome. Taking a 3-0 lead from the first leg to the Eternal City, Barca were expected to canter into the semi-finals.
But Ernesto Valverde’s side got the shock of their lives as they were harried, pressed and overwhelmed by Roma.
An early goal from Edin Dzeko set the tone and Barca was rocking on the ropes when Daniele De Rossi slotted home from the penalty spot on 58 minutes.
The final half hour was pretty much one-way traffic, with Barca defending for their lives as Roma threw everything into attack.
Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a brilliant save with 10 minutes remaining, but he was powerless to keep out a superb glancing header from Kostas Manolos on 82 minutes.
The celebrations that greeted the goal and the full-time whistle will go down in Roma folklore, as they pulled off what had felt impossible.
Roma will advance to the draw on Friday as outsiders, and despite their heroics, come Tuesday they will be the side the other three semi-finalists will want to face.
Underestimating Roma was Barca’s undoing, but whether they can pull off such a performance again is unlikely.
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