After an exciting first day of matches this week the general sentiment going into Wednesday was the top dogs (Bayern & Barcelona) would cruise to the semi finals. Both heavy favorites two advance according to Vegas… Apparently nobody told Atletico Madrid. Atleti came in to Wednesday down 2-1 on aggregate but did possess the crucial away goal.
Barca came out with their usual attack minded style of football while Atleti sank deep into their own end and looked to counter quickly. Then in the 36th minute everything changed. Saul hit a beautiful curling ball off the outside of his foot, which Griezmann struck with fervor giving the Barcelona keeper no chance. 2-2 with Atleti going on by virtue of away goals. If you thought Atletico was playing defensive before they really were now. Their strikers tracked back to their own 18-yard box to disrupt any Barca momentum. Then again in the 86th minute Atletico broke out with a dangerous counter. Iniesta slid to try to stop it catching the ball with his hand… Penalty Kick. The crowd erupts as the team protests for a red card, their pleadings feel on deaf ears however as Iniesta was only issued a yellow. Griezmann stepped confidently to the spot and buried the PK bottom right just out of the outstretched reach of Ter Stergen. Game set match: Atletico advance in one of the biggest shockers in recent champions league history.
Meanwhile while the action was playing out in Madrid German Stalwarts Bayern Munich were being giving all they could handle from the Portuguese side Benfica. An early headed goal from Benfica tied the score 1-1 on aggregate and it seemed the momentum was swinging their way. That is when Bayern stepped in and showed why they are odds on favorites to win the Champions League. Beautiful interplay combined with long balls to their dangerous forwards proved to be too much for the Portuguese side. A stunner from Vidal and clean up finish for Thomas Muller secured the victory for the Germans who advanced 3-2 on aggregate. Benfica did add a goal in the 76th minute but it was far too little far too late.
With the final four set we now await the semi final draw to determine who will play who for an opportunity tograce the greatest stage in soccer. The final four gives us two teams from Madrid, Atletico and Real, German powers Bayern, and 2014’s EPL champs Manchester City. Surely an intriguing 4, we eagerly await the draw to get a better picture of the tail end of this incredible champions League season. One things for certain, your not gonna want to miss a second of these semi final matches.
Reformed ad agency guy. Sac Kings, PGA Tour, Pebble Beach, Aspen yielded fascination with sports business. Now teach at my alma mater, University of Texas Austin: Integrated Marketing, Social Media, Business and Law and Sports Audiences. 40 year streak of single digit handicap under severe pressure.
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