The first week of matches in the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League didn’t provide too many surprise results but with top clubs like AC Milan and defending champions FC Barcelona listed on the fixture schedule, great soccer was sure to be seen. It’s still strange to have the knockout round missing Manchester United but after Arsenal’s large deficit, Chelsea may be only one team left from the English Premier League with any hope to advance. With the first four games finally finished, let’s break down the winners and losers.
AC Milan Vs. Arsenal — AC Milan stomped over Arsenal 4-0 with an opening bomb by Kevin Prince Boteng, two sensational goals by Robinho, and finally a penalty goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Even when Arsenal manager inserted Thierry Henry in the second half, the English club looked completely flat and were denied on their best opportunity by Milan goal keeper Christian Abbiati. In order to advance Arsenal has to score five in the second leg at home with out Milan scoring. The London squad’s chances? Bleak.
Benifica Vs. Zenit St. Petersburg — The most competitive match of the week, Benifica struck first from a free kick rebound goal from Maxi Pereira in the 20th minute. Seven minutes later Zenit’s Roman Shirokov equalized with a volleyed strike into the back of the net. Zenit scored again in the 71st with a back-heel goal from Sergey Semak but the Portuguese came late to tie, assuming the match would remain level by the final whistle. Fortunately for Zenit, Shirokov scores on a defensive error, leaving the Russians with a one goal lead before meeting in Portugal.
FC Barcelona Vs. Bayern Leverkusen — Alexis Sanchez knocked in two goals taking the roster spot of the injured David Villa while Leo Messi knocked in a hard fought goal to win the first leg 3-1 over German squad Bayern Leverkusen. Leverkusen’s Michal Kadlec headed in a goal in the 52nd minute to give the Germans some hope for the second leg but with Messi’s insurance away goal, beating Barcelona will be close to impossible.
Olympique Lyonnais Vs. Apoel — Looking like the game would result in a scoreless affair, Lyon scores with Alexandre Lacazette finally getting a goal after numerous attempts. CInderella story team Apoel lacked attacking presence but defended well to only leave the match at one goal. If the Cyprus underdogs have some Jeremy Lin magic in them for the second leg, they could be the shocker team in for the quarter final round.