Sunday, December 3, 2023

Liverpool see off Leipzig to reach Champions League last eight

Liverpool 1
Liverpool's midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) and striker Sadio Mane (C) vie with RB Leipzig's midfielder Christopher Nkunku during their UEFA Champions league football match in Budapest, Hungary, on March 10, 2021. (AFP / Attila Kisbenedek)

BUDAPEST, March 11: Liverpool eased past RB Leipzig into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 win in Budapest Wednesday courtesy of two second-half goals to give the Reds a 4-0 aggregate win.

Repeating their double brace from the first-leg Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane struck within four minutes to settle the tie and keep alive Liverpool’s hopes of rescuing their season with European glory.
After six successive defeats at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp’s team looked relieved to be away from home, with the second leg also played in Hungary due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
But while the Reds showed attacking intent from the off, they squandered a string of chances throughout the first-half.
Unmarked at a corner, Diogo Jota should have opened their account in the 18th minute but the Portuguese striker directed his header straight at Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi who tipped over.
Midway through the period an acrobatic scissors kick by Thiago Alcantara released Salah but his left-footed effort was blocked by Gulacsi with Mane unable to convert the rebound.
On the half-hour the onrushing Salah couldn’t finish from close-range a cross by Trent Alexander-Arnold who was sent clear on the right with a slide-rule pass by Mane.
Roused at last by the near misses, the German side began to venture beyond Liverpool’s high line and managed to carve out some chances of their own.
On the half hour Kevin Kampl forced a save from Alisson Becker with a curler from distance, while a minute later Swedish playmaker Emil Forsberg, back from injury, clipped a snapshot just wide of the post.
Still the better chances were Liverpool’s with Jota again firing straight at Gulacsi just before the break and into the side-netting on the whistle after a slip by French defender Dayot Upamecano.
Leipzig, flying domestically on the back of six straight Bundesliga wins but nervy in Budapest, urgently needed a goal to rattle Liverpool but continued to lack penetration in the second half.
In truth, Julian Nagelsmann’s men, who dumped Tottenham out at this stage of the competition last year and Manchester United in the group stage this season, rarely looked like claiming an even bigger scalp by turning the tie around.
Their last opportunity arrived on 65 minutes but Alexander Sorloth’s header from a cross by Hee-Chan Hwang spun over Alisson’s fingertips only to rebound out from the bar.
Soon after Salah and Mane ruthlessly punished the let-off by securing Liverpool’s berth in the last eight.
In the 70th minute the Egyptian fired a spot past Gulacsi, then four minutes later Mane turned a cross by substitute Divock Origi past the hapless Hungarian.
Champions League: PSG bury Barcelona demons to reach last eight

PSG’s Kylian Mbappe in action during their UCL last 16 second leg at home to Barcelona Wednesday. Reuters

Paris St Germain buried the ghosts of their embarrassing 2017 exit as they drew 1-1 at home with Barcelona on Wednesday to complete a 5-2 aggregate victory that sent them into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Four years after Barca claimed a memorable 6-1 win to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit in the last 16, PSG lacked inspiration but their 4-1 advantage from the first game in Spain was sufficient this time.
Kylian Mbappe, who scored a hat-trick at the Nou Camp, opened the scoring with a penalty against the run of play before Lionel Messi levelled with a superb long-range goal, but the Argentine had a spot-kick saved by Keylor Navas on the stroke of halftime.
The French champions were on the back foot in the second half as Barca piled on the pressure but Barca exited the competition before the semi-finals for the second year in a row.
Barca’s exit ensured it will be the first time since 2005 that neither Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the Champions League quarter-finals after Juventus were also knocked out in the last 16, on Tuesday.
“We suffered a lot in the first half, and psychologically it was a test for us. I gathered that the past was something that was talked about a lot here,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said.
“We were better in the second half, we were more competitive.”
Barca coach Ronald Koeman tried to remain upbeat.
“We are departing this Champions League in a very different manner from the way we did last season. In this game, we hit our level and that’s the road we have to follow,” said Koeman, referring to the team’s 8-2 aggregate defeat in the quarter-finals by Bayern Munich last year.
PSG, without injured forward Neymar, looked nothing like the team who reached last year’s final or hammered Barcelona three weeks ago, but they did keep their composure at the back.
Barcelona stamped their authority early on, finding space for Ousmane Dembele, but the Frenchman was twice denied by Navas and he skied an effort over the crossbar in the opening 20 minutes.
Sergino Dest went close for Barca with a powerful angled shot that Navas deflected on to his left-hand post and Dembele broke down the left flank but his cross just evaded a sliding Messi.
It was PSG, however, who went ahead on 31 minutes as Mbappe converted a penalty awarded following a VAR review after Clement Lenglet appeared to step onto Mauro Icardi’s heel.

Six minutes later, Messi unleashed a 25-metre missile that flew into the top corner to equalise in style with his 120th goal in the Champions League.
The Argentine had a chance to put the visitors in front just before the break when Barca won a penalty following a Layvin Kurzawa foul on Antoine Griezmann, but Navas deflected the Argentine’s spot-kick onto the bar and away.
Barca were still all over PSG in the second half and it took a desperate tackle by Marquinhos to prevent Messi scoring from point blank range before Navas cleared a Sergio Busquets header.
Barcelona gradually ran out of steam, however, and must now turn to their bid to win the La Liga title, where they trail leaders Atletico Madrid by six points. (AFP/Reuters)