Tag Archives: UEFA Champions League

Spurs vs Ajax – Champions League semi-final first leg player ratings: who was impressive and who fail?

It is advantage to the Dutchmen following Ajax’s flying start in north London on Tuesday night, but which players impressed as Tottenham Hotspur lost the Champions League semi-final first leg and who let themselves down?

Kieran Trippier was substituted and replaced by Juan Foyth CREDIT: ACTION IMAGES

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2)

Hugo Lloris

Helpless for the Van de Beek goal but did excellently with his legs to prevent the Ajax midfielder from scoring a quickfire second. 6/10

Toby Alderweireld

Failed to hit the target with a free header from Trippier’s free-kick. Helped to marshal Tadic as Spurs grew into the game later on. 6/10

Davinson Sanchez

A difficult evening in which he appeared to be targeted by his former club. His recovery speed was useful when Ajax countered. 5/10

Jan Vertonghen

Forced to leave the field in worrying circumstances. Was barely able to stand after an accidental collision with Alderweireld had left him bloodied and dazed. 5/10

Kieran Trippier

Played Van de Beek onside for the opening goal. Deliveries were inconsistent but crosses for Alderweireld and Llorente created two of Spurs’ best chances. 5/10

Danny Rose stretches for the ball midway through the first half CREDIT: EPA

Christian Eriksen

Never as influential as he would have wanted to be. Spoke volumes that some of his best moments were when he helped out defensively. 6/10

Victor Wanyama

Had plenty of work to do to plug the gaps in the midfield. Isolated early on and he struggled with the intensity of the Ajax pressing. 5/10

Dele Alli

Looked a different player after Sissoko’s arrival. Allowed to push further forward, he tested Onana with a fierce effort. 6/10

Danny Rose

Boisterous and tireless down the left, where Ziyech kept him busy. Forever willing but final pass or cross was generally snuffed out. 6/10

Lucas Moura

The home side’s most industrious and creative attacker. His scarpering runs caused problems for Ajax. Would have hoped for one clear chance. 7/10

Fernando Llorente

Should have hit the target with a first-half header from Trippier’s delivery. Had moments of joy against Blind, but not enough. 6/10

Substitutes: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Walker-Peters, Davies, Dier, Skipp, Sissoko

Ajax (4-2-3-1) 

Andre Onana

Commanding from crosses against a considerable aerial threat from the home side. Occasionally loose in his distribution. 6/10

Joel Veltman

Not afraid to tussle with Rose in the early exchanges, then produced timely tackle on Lucas. Booked for wrestling with Alli after losing possession. 5/10

Matthijs de Ligt impressed once again CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Matthijs de Ligt

Visibly and audibly the leader of the side, despite his tender years. More than willing to engage Llorente in a physical battle. 8/10

Daley Blind

Forward passing into midfield was a theme of Ajax’s early dominance. Perhaps fortunate to avoid a booking for a clumsy hit on Lucas. 7/10

Nicolas Tagliafico

Rightly booked for preventing a Spurs counter-attack with a late lunge on Eriksen. Scared Lloris with a fizzing low drive after the break. 6/10

Lasse Schone

Sloppier in possession than his team-mates. Always busy, though, and always bustling around Eriksen and Alli in the Spurs midfield. 6/10

Frenkie de Jong

Looks to be worth every penny of the £65 million Barcelona have spent on him. Repeatedly nicked the ball and always wanted possession. 8/10

Hakim Ziyech

Sleek and sharp in possession. Terrific pass picked out Van de Beek for the opening goal. More of a passenger as Spurs grew stronger. 7/10

Matthijs de Ligt impressed once again CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Donny van de Beek

Had the composure and the skill to sit Lloris down before finishing into the corner, then nearly scored a second a few minutes later. 8/10

David Neres

Provided the speed in behind the Spurs defence when the other attackers dropped deep. Struck the foot of the post after rapid counter. 7/10

Dusan Tadic

Generally menacing but not as productive as in previous rounds. Unable to hold the ball up on the occasions when Ajax were forced to go long. 6/10


Champions League draw: clubs, pots, format and all you need to know

Liverpool will be on the harder side of Thursday’s draw after Benfica won a play-off, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham the other Premier League clubs involved.


Liverpool, runners-up in the Champions League last season, will be in pot three in Thursday afternoon’s group-stage draw after Benfica saw off Paok Thessaloniki in the play-offs.

Had Benfica lost then Liverpool would have joined Manchester United and Tottenham in pot two. Manchester City are in pot one.

The draw, which begins at 5pm BST, will determine the make-up of the eight Champions League groups. One team from each pot will be placed in each group. No teams from the same country can be drawn in the same group and Uefa has also ruled that clubs from Russia and Ukraine cannot face one another.

Pot one consists of the holders (Real Madrid), the Europa League winners (Atlético Madrid) and the champions of the six highest-ranked nations. Pots two to four are determined by the club coefficient rankings.

The one surprise in Wednesday night’s play-offs was the elimination of RB Salzburg by Red Star Belgrade, who came back from 2-0 down in Austria to draw 2-2 and advance on away goals.

Pot one Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Juventus, PSG, Lokomotiv Moscow

Pot two Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Napoli, Tottenham, Roma

Pot three Liverpool, Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, Ajax, CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia

Pot four Viktoria Plzen, Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Young Boys, Internazionale, Hoffenheim, Red Star Belgrade, AEK Athens

The draw will be covered live on theguardian.com/football

Cover photo: The draw for the Champions League group stage begins at 5pm BST on Thursday. Photo: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

Salah’s injury becomes exam question in Syria law school

The tackle which forced Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah to leave the pitch 30 minutes into the Champions League final last week has featured as a question in a law exam, it’s been reported.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah to left the pitch 30 minutes into the Champions League final.

Syrian pages on Facebook circulated images from the General Penal Code examsat by first-year students at the University of Damascus.

The question reads: “Sergio Ramos injured Mohamed Salah in the 2018 European Champions League final. Naturally, Ramos cannot be held to account for this action from a criminal law perspective due to four conditions that make the use of violence justified in sports. State these conditions.”

The question seems to have been met with good humour and sporting rivalry from most students, with the opposition Enab Baladi website saying that some described the teacher who set the exam as a “defeated Barcelona fan” – Barcelona’s fierce rivals Real Madrid won the final in Kiev after their 3-1 victory over Liverpool.

Another Facebook user commented: “Any Barcelona fan would have torn up the exam paper and left when they heard Ramos’s name.”

Others commended the professor who wrote the question for having students apply the law to a real life example, while the university’s own Facebook page rushed to the defence of the teacher. “The question was clear and frank. All thanks and appreciation goes to the academic staff in general,” it said.

It attached to its post a picture of the question, and the textbook answer, also answered correctly by a student posting on Hawa TV’s Facebook page.

“The conditions are: 1 – That the game is held according to the law. 2 – For the injured player to have consented to take part in the game. 3 – For the player who was behind the injury to have respected the rules and principles of the game. 4 – For the injuries to have been sustained during the game,” they wrote.

Reporting by Lina Shaikhouni, Alistair Coleman from the BBC

Sadio Mane sends 300 Liverpool shirts to hometown ahead of #UCLfinal

Sadio Mane has given 300 Liverpool shirts to locals in his hometown in Senegal, so they can wear them during the Champions League final.

Mane has 51 caps for Senegal.
Mane has 51 caps for Senegal. Getty Images

The 26-year-old forward, who grew up in Bambali in the West African country, made the generous gesture before the Reds’ clash with 12-time winners Real Madrid on Saturday.

He said:

There are 2,000 in the village. I bought 300 Liverpool jerseys to send to the people in the village, so the fans can wear to watch the final.

My mum and my uncle, they are all going to be watching.

Nobody in the village will work this day. I will be going back in the summer after the World Cup and hopefully I will be showing everyone a [winners’] medal.”

Liverpool fear no one in Champions League – Alexander-Arnold

  •  Alexander-Arnold: ‘From the start in Europe we’re in it to win it’
  • Defender believes his game has hit new heights this season


Mo Salah soaks up the acclaim after scoring Liverpool’s first goal in their 2-1 win at Manchester City. Photo: Michael Mayhew/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

Trent Alexander-Arnold has said Liverpool fear no one in the Champions Leaguesemi-final draw on Friday and believes his game reached new heights after being targeted as a weak link by Manchester City.

The 19-year-old excelled in both legs of the quarter-final and insists a sixth European Cup triumph is a realistic aim for Liverpool given the manner of their 5-1 aggregate defeat of the runaway Premier League leaders. Alexander-Arnold, who was nine the last time Liverpool reached the Champions League semi-finals, scored the opening goal of an unbeaten campaign by Jürgen Klopp’s team in the play-off win at Hoffenheim. He claims there is no team, past or potential, in the competition who intimidate Liverpool.

“Throughout the whole tournament there hasn’t been a team who strike fear in us,” he said. “We’ve looked at it from the start that we’re in it to win it. As it goes on, you get closer and closer to getting that chance to win it. We’ve taken another step closer to the final and there are still two more games ahead of us. Whoever we draw on Friday, we’ll look forward to the game and hopefully get to the final.”

The defender’s confidence was echoed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who believes the City victory will have an impact on the remainder of Liverpool’s season. “To beat City twice is no easy feat,” the England midfielder said. “We did it twice in a week and earlier this season. It shows us that when we are at the races and at the right level we can beat anyone in this league. Hopefully now it is on us – whoever we get in the next round – to prove we can beat anyone in Europe as well.”

Pep Guardiola and his team sought to exploit Alexander-Arnold’s inexperience in the quarter-final, particularly in the first leg at Anfield, only for the Liverpool-born defender to thrive in his duel with Leroy Sané. “I guess Man City looked at it and felt I was the weak link,” the teenager said. “Maybe that gave me that underdog mentality and I tried to prove them wrong. That’s what I went out to try and do – prove them wrong and show them I’m not the weak link in the team.

“I think over the two legs I did my best to win my personal battles and help us win the tie. It was a different test for me. It was a bigger, harder test. I had to play to a better level than I’ve probably ever played before. It tested me to a new level and now I know that I’ve got that in me. That is the level I need from myself to keep my standards really high and to hopefully be able to play in these elite European games and come out on top.”

Ronaldo shocks Juventus as Thiago Alcântara puts Bayern ahead of Sevilla – Match report

It was an interesting, but heart-aching night for football lovers as the big heads lock horns in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League quarter finals.


For a brief moment, there was stunned silence. It felt as if nobody could comprehend what they had witnessed. Then the applause broke out. It came from all sides of this boisterous arena. In great blocks, the Juventus supporters rose to their feet. It was to recognise sporting genius and it did not matter to them that it had come from a rival.

Cristiano Ronaldo had put Real Madrid in control of this Champions Leaguequarter-final with an early poacher’s finish. He now had them in sight of the next stage and, even by his exulted standards, it was a jaw-dropping intervention. When Dani Carvajal stood up a cross from the right, Ronaldo instinctively knew that the overhead kick was on. He leapt, hung and stretched before, with the ball at its highest point, he swivelled his hips and worked a right-footed masterpiece beyond Gianluigi Buffon.

Ronaldo has 25 goals in his last 14 games for club and country. He has scored in every Champions League tie this season to lead the field for the competition’s Golden Boot with 14. Something seems to stir inside of him when the aria plays. Juventus were broken.

Paulo Dybala, their great hope, was sent off for a high boot on Carvajal, having previously been booked for diving and, when Ronaldo ushered in Marcelo for Real’s third, it was all over. Juventus have won the previous four two-legged ties against Real, going back to 1996, but they need a miracle to progress. After the loss to Real in last season’s final in Cardiff, this was another bitter pill.

Paulo Dybala dives in the penalty area, drawing a yellow card from the referee before he was later sent off for after second booking. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Massimiliano Allegri had likened grand Champions League occasions to an evening at La Scala. “We live for nights like this,” read the Juventus slogan on the big screen during the pre-match lights show. One of Europe’s classic matches pulsed with stardust and history, with the subplots rich and numerous.

Zinedine Zidane was once feted as a Juventus player. This was his first return to Turin as a coach. Cardiff had framed the occasion, with Zidane starting with the same Real lineup as he had in last season’s final. Allegri insisted that the tie was not about revenge. Nobody truly believed him.

Ronaldo’s numbers are freakish and needed to be updated – and further gawped at – after three minutes. Marcelo’s lovely switch of feet created the angle for the pass up the left to Isco but it was still shocking to see how much space the Real midfielder had to measure his cross. Ronaldo held his run. Then, he bolted for the near post. When Karim Benzema stood tall in the middle, he effectively set a screen for his team-mate. Andrea Barzagli was blocked off and, when Ronaldo converged, everybody knew what would happen next. It was Ronaldo’s sixth appearance in Real’s colours against Juventus. He has never failed to score against them.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s team-mates marvel at his brilliance while he accepts the applause from both sets of fans. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

The significance of the away goal was lost on nobody and the tie became shaped to Real’s liking. Juventus had to push; the visitors were more than happy to punch on the counter. With Luka Modric and Isco showcasing sumptuous touches, they threatened another before the interval. Raphaël Varane headed over from a corner when unmarked. Toni Kroos thumped a 25-yard drive against the crossbar.

Juventus looked a little frantic as they chased the equaliser but they had their moments – the biggest coming on 22 minutes. Gonzalo Higuaín volleyed a Dybala free-kick goalwards and it took a wonderful reflex save by Keylor Navas to deny him.

Real were indebted to Sergio Ramos and Varane for important interventions but it felt symptomatic of Juventus’s frustrations that Dybala attempted to win a penalty in the 45th minute with a blatant dive. He was booked. Moments earlier, the home crowd had howled for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Varane’s arm at close quarters. An award would have been harsh.

The burden on Dybala to create was heavy. He drew a foul from Ramos on 54 minutes for which the defender was booked – the Real captain is suspended for the second leg – and Dybala watched his subsequent free-kick deflect wide. His night would end in ignominy.

Ronaldo had gone close at the start of the second half and he should have completed the hat-trick late on from point-blank range. The substitute Mateo Kovacic rattled the bar. The 12-time champions scent further glory.

Thiago Alcântara’s header gives Bayern Munich upper hand against Sevilla

Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcântara celebrates after putting his side ahead in the second half. Photograph: Jose Manuel Vidal/EPA

At the final whistle there was applause and then at one end of this stadium they began to bounce about, chanting about how proud they were of the team that soon came over to clap them back. At the same time, Bayern Munich’s players, headed to the other end. It had not been easy but they had won 2-1, taking an important lead into the second leg. There is still the Allianz Arena to come, but the reaction from the Sánchez Pizjuán felt final, like the fans here knew they had probably reached the end of the road. It is 60 years since Sevilla have come so far and there was reason to be satisfied even if there was reason to be a little sad too. For Bayern, this is familiar territory, but the next step will be harder.

Sevilla always knew this would be difficult, the banner depicting them as Asterix and Obelix spread across one end expressing the enormity of what they had before them, but they had come to believe. “Sevilla score a goal,” the fans sang as the clock ran down. They had scored one in the first half, through Pablo Sarabia, but an own goal from Jesús Navas and a header from Thiago Alcântara had seen Bayern recover to take a 2-1 lead. Now Sevilla tried to find the equaliser, but it was not to be. If Manchester was historic, they will have to do something even more extraordinary in Munich.

For much of the first half, it felt perfectly possible. Carlos Joaquín Correa and Sergio Escudero had first combined as early as the second minute and it was from their left wing that the first chance came. Escudero’s wonderful ball sought out Wissam Ben Yedder and, as Matts Hummels tried to intercept, the ball fell at the feet of Sarabia nine yards out. Sarabia, though, curled it wide. The lament did not last. Just after the half-hour Escudero delivered again, this time long towards the far post. Juan Bernat was slow to the bounce, seemingly unaware of the threat behind him, and Sarabia jumped in front, controlling on the chest and finishing, running to the corner redeemed.

Bayern’s Thiago Alcântara scores his side’s second goal with a diving header. Photograph: Miguel Morenatti/AP

The noise, already deafening, found a way of increasing somehow, the roar rolling round, but Bayern took just six minutes to draw level, fortune favouring the Bavarians. James Rodríguez received from Thomas Müller and, amid the din, spread the play to the left where Franck Ribéry ran at the Sevilla defence. Opening out his body to bend the ball in right-footed, Ribéry instead hit Navas; the ball changed direction and squeezed past David Soria at the near post. Until then a simple catch from Thiago’s long shot was as difficult as it got for a goalkeeper surprisingly included ahead of Sergio Rico.

Just two Nigerians left in Europe as Uefa competitions continues

The draws for the quarterfinal pairing in the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League was conducted in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday at the UEFA headquarters and in the 16 clubs left in both competitions are just two Nigerian players.

Alex Iwobi
Alex Iwobi

Ahmed Musa just returned to CSKA Moscow on loan from Leicester City while Alex Iwobi plays his football at Arsenal. Both clubs will compete in the Europa League.

Musa was instrumental to CSKA qualifying for the quarter-final as he scored in the 3-2 surprise victory over Lyon after losing the first leg at home 1-0.

The winger or second forward scored on the hour to give CSKA a 2-1 lead while Pontus Wernbloom scored the Russian team’s third. Mariano Diaz scored for the French side with 19 minutes left on the clock but despite four added minutes, CSKA held on to book their ticket to the last eight.

Champions LeagueNigeria PlayersEuropa LeagueNigeria Players

AS RomaNilArsenalAlex Iwobi

BarcelonaNilAtletico MadridNil

Bayern Munich NilCSKA MoscowAhmed Musa

Juventus Nil Olympique Marseille Nil

Liverpool Nil RB Leipzig Nil

Manchester City Nil Salzburg Nil

Real Madrid Nil SS Lazio Nil

Sevilla Nil Sporting Lisbo nNil

Total Nil Total Two

Iwobi was an unused substitute when Arsenal confirmed their passage with a 3-1 second leg win over AC Milan. They won the first leg 2-0 to qualify 5-2 on aggregate.

In the Champions League, the last surviving Nigerian, Victor Moses lost out with Chelsea to Barcelona 4-1 on aggregate. He played all 90 minutes in the first leg and lasted 67 minutes in the second leg.

SOURCE: Premium Times

Barcelona 3 – 0 Chelsea – Live commentary and scores


Match Summary

The teams!


Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea

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Arsenal 1-2 Östersund (agg 4-2) Miserable Gunners lose but progress after all

Arsenal are through, Ostersund are out. But it is a magnificent performance from the Swedish side. The biggest credit I can give them is that I genuinely thought at half-time that they could pull off the upset, such was the quality of their play.

A silly error at the beginning of the second half took away their momentum, but it’s still probably the best result in their history.

Humiliation was narrowly averted but, as an audition for Sunday’s League Cup final against Manchester City, Arsenal’s fringe players delivered the footballing equivalent of forgetting all their lines and then falling off the stage in a big heap.

Yes, they did ultimately ensure their place in the last 16 of the Europa League by an aggregate 4-2 scoreline but, having fallen 2-0 down against a club who have been in existence for less time than Arsene Wenger has been Arsenal manager, the wobble was spectacular.

In isolation, a 2-1 defeat on the night was also still among the worst results in Arsenal’s entire history. Ostersunds, after all, are making their debut in European competition and had played this fixture amid limited training due to freezing conditions back home and a break since December in the Swedish league.

It all raises significant questions ahead of Sunday’s final. Alex Iwobi, who hobbled off injured, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny all started here and are realistically in competition for two remaining starting spaces but did nothing to advance their case.

If the sight of numerous empty seats suggested that Arsenal’s fans were either supremely confident or just disinterested in the prospect of facing Ostersunds FK, the 4,500 supporters in the away section told you everything about the enormity of this fixture for their opponents.

Ken Sema (R) celebrates his brilliant goal that made it 2-0 to the visitors. Photo: AFP

It effectively meant that 10 per cent of the population of Ostersund was at The Emirates for what was comfortably the most glamorous match in their history. It created an unusual atmosphere.

The surroundings might all have been familiar to the Arsenal players but most of the noise was for their visitors. The feeling of an away fixture was perhaps also compounded by Arsenal’s generous willingness to play in all blue in the knowledge that Ostersunds FK’s only two kits – red or white – would have clashed with their own home strip.

Arsenal’s initial mindset could also not have been more welcoming. The players seemed somewhere trapped between those who felt they needed only to turn up to win and those who were genuinely nervous.

Complacency appeared to most afflict the experienced players furthest forward. Avoiding injury had perhaps been a priority for those who had a realistic chance to play at Wembley on Sunday and, consequently, the likes of Wilshere, Iwobi, Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny were initially anonymous.

The wider problem was then a centre-back partnership in Rob Holding and Calum Chambers between two players who have long seemed to be struggling with their confidence followed very mixed spells up in the first team.

Saman Ghoddos (2nd R) attempts to make it 3-0 with a free-kick. Photo: AFP

Add in Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac’s desire to push forward from full-back and Arsenal could scarcely have made themselves more vulnerable.

Ostersunds FK quickly sensed their opportunity and, while the possession statistics might have been in Arsenal’s favour, the best chances were being created by their opponents.

Captain Brwa Nouri was a persistent threat breaking from midfield and, after a move that also involved Jamie Hopcutt – an English midfielder who played previously for Tadcaster Albion in the Northern Premier League – Arsenal were cut wide open.

Nouri, though, just miss-controlled the final pass to spare Arsenal. Ken Sema also had an early sight of goal but his low shot was saved by David Ospina.

Arsenal had been warned but did not heed the danger signals. Holding had wondered forward into a midfield area when Arsenal lost the ball, allowing Hosam Aiesh to gratefully sprint into space between Chambers and Kolasinac before shooting past Ospina.

More dreadful defending followed as soon as the game restarted, with Ken Sema turning Chambers with embarrassing ease before himself shooting past Ospina.

Sead Kolasinac settled Arsenal’s nerves with a goal early in the second half. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Wenger had included two senior defenders in Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal on the bench and, whether directly instructed or not, they immediately rose to their feet and began warming up.

Only 23 minutes had been played. Arsenal did then recover some semblance of rhythm for the rest of the half but still scarcely threatened, with Wilshere shooting wastefully over from their best chance following Mkhitaryan’s freekick.

Wenger had clearly decided that his team lacked midfield presence and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who with Elneny had provided such scarce defensive protection, was replaced by Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal did immediately improve and, after Bellerin’s cross was only partially cleared by Ronald Mukiibi, Kolasinac finished emphatically to restore a two goal aggregate cushion.

Wilshere then released Welbeck, whose attempted chip finish was comfortably gathered by Ostersunds goalkeeper Aly Keita. Arsenal had regained some composure but they were still further lapses.

After a towering Hopcutt header, Mukiibi missed an opportunity to further narrow the deficit and, while Elneny and especially Welbeck wasted chances to end the tie, Arsenal never once looked comfortable.

They will take their place in Friday’s draw but this all still somehow felt like a further chapter in the recent football fairytale of Ostersunds FK and their inspirational English manager Graham Potter.

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