The first issue of Champions League round of 16 knockout phase left no one cold – unless you are a Liverpool fan.
The home sides kept their composure to grab a much needed win and it remains all open for the second leg. Atletico Madrid held Liverpool to a 1-0 standoff at Wanda Metropolitano and Dortmund rode their January acquisition Erling Haaland double to 2-1 victory over PSG at Westfalen.
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone couldn’t have hoped for a better start to their game against the reigning champions. Having struggled all season with goal scoring, they’ve only managed 25 goals in 24 games of La Liga, the home team opened the scoring already on the 4th minute. Saul Niguez was the man of the moment to tip in the bouncing ball and giving his team the instant lead. After the early goal, Simeone and Atletico did what they do best – defended like their life depended on it.
They successfully formed an effective wall of meat and bones, which kept Liverpool completely at bay and added to their frustration by physical presence all over the field. After controlling the possession for 67% of the game, current EPL runaway leaders and reigning UCL champions did not manage a single shot on goal against the feisty and determined Atletico.
If the Madrid affair was predicted and expected to be a low-scoring defensive battle, the fixture between Dortmund and PSG was to be at the other end of the spectrum. But instead, as it often goes, expectations do not always match reality, especially when it comes to Champions League knockout stage first legs. Both teams started the game carefully, keeping their form tight and not allowing their counterparts any counter-attacking options. The first half saw one shot on goal, altogether, which is telling of the conservative nature of the first 45.
The second half saw more action, with both teams getting a handful of chances to take the lead. Dortmund had the better of it but it took all of 69 minutes before the suspense turned into fireworks. Unsurprisingly it was Dortmund’s Norwegian wonderboy Erling Haaland who struck like a lightning from a clear sky and opened the game up like a can of codfish. The 19-year-old jumped at a chance to tip in a bouncing ball left by the PSG defense and took his team 1-0 ahead.
It didn’t take long for PSG to bounce back. Neymar had an easy job slotting the ball into the bet after Kylian Mbappe skipped past the defenders and served an inch-perfect pass in front of the goal on 75th minute. Despite the equaliser, Dortmund kept on the pressure and PSG keeper Keylor Navas had to do his best to keep the visitors in the game. There was not much he could do, when the Norwegian struck the second time. The striker unleashed a left-footed strike from the 16-yard line like no other and sent the Yellow Wall of Dortmund fans into raptures on 77th minute and his team to 2-1 victory.