independent

Monday 14 October 2019

It could get Messi for Liverpool and Spurs

Weird Wide World Of Sport

Lionel Messi could well fire Barcelona to another Champions League crown
Lionel Messi could well fire Barcelona to another Champions League crown

Dave Devereux

After more ups and downs than an overworked window cleaner, the Champions League is reaching the business end and there's sure to be another twist or two in the road before the final destination is reached.

There's nowhere else to start other than Wednesday night's pulsating encounter between Tottenham and Man City, which will live long in the memory, as Spurs dashed Pep's quadruple dreams in dramatic fashion.

The four goals they shared in the opening eleven minutes set the tone for an edge of the seat clash, and when Raheem Sterling hit the back of the net after 21 minutes to make it 3-2 on the night it broke the record for the fastest time five goals had been scored in a Champions League match.

When Sergio Aguero fired City in front 15 minutes into the second-half it looked the Premier League title favourites were on the way, but Spurs found an unlikely hero in substitute Fernando Llorente, who bundled the ball home, with the goal correctly being allowed to stand after a VAR check.

City then looked to have rescued it at the death when Sterling scored what appeared to be the winner late on, prompting Guardiola into a celebratory sprint down the sideline.

However, his sprint became a sullen slump when VAR played its part again, disallowing the goal as Aguero was offside in the build-up.

Rarely, if ever, have we seen such a gamut of emotions in such a short space of time in a football match.

Unimaginable highs to sickening lows. The game had it all.

If Spurs fans were offered Ajax as potential Champions League semi-final opponents at the start of the competition they would have bitten your hand off, but given what the Dutch side have done in the tournament so far they certainly can't be taken lightly.

Real Madrid may be far from the force of old this season, but the way Ajax put the three-in-a-row holders to the sword in the Bernabeu in their last eight clash has to be admired.

The young upstarts showed that was no fluke by repeating the trick against Juventus, ending Cristiano Ronaldo's hopes of continuing his winning streak in the tournament, with 19-year-old Matthijs de Ligt and 21-year-old Donny van de Beek getting goals in their 2-1 triumph in Turin.

Ajax will be confident of continuing their unbelievable run, but I think Spurs may well script a fairytale of their own by reaching the showpiece in Madrid at the start of June

Barcelona eased past a tame enough Manchester United challenge with the minimum of fuss after an early scare, with Lionel Messi proving their nemesis once again. His first goal was sublime, and when he was gifted a second by David De Gea, United were left swimming against the tide, before an outstanding Philippe Coutinho strike hammered the final nail in their coffin.

If any team can trouble the mighty Barca it could well be Liverpool, and they're capable of punishing a sometimes dodgy Barcelona defence with their potent attacking threats and ability to break with flair and pace.

They swatted away Porto like pesky annoying flies over the two legs, and Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino will pose problems for the Spanish champions-elect in the semi-final, while Virgil van Dijk will show his usual leadership from the back.

However, I think a moment of magic or two from Lionel Messi could well be the difference to edge the Catalans through, ensuring a novel Barcelona versus Tottenham final.

You never know in a once-off cup game, but if Spurs do reach the decider I can't see them living with the mesmerising brilliance of Messi and co., so I fully expect Barcelona to be lifting the trophy for the first time in four years.

Wexford People

Most Read

News