Barcelona crash out of Champions League
MADRID – Holders Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League after being stifled by a brilliantly well-organised Atletico Madrid and undone by two goals from Antoine Griezmann in a 2-0 quarter-final second-leg defeat on Wednesday.
Griezmann headed home Saul Niguez’s exquisite cross to give the home side the lead in the 36th minute and provide them with a platform from which they comfortably contained their uncharacteristically limp opponents to seal a 3-2 aggregate win.
The France forward scored again from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining, following a handball from Andres Iniesta, to complete a 3-2 aggregate victory that eliminated Barca at the quarter-final stage for the second time in three seasons.
Barcelona, who were bidding to become the first team to retain the Champions League, seem to have run out of steam at the end of the season, having won just one of their last five matches.
They have not looked the same side since their 39-game unbeaten run ended at the start of the month and they came into the Wednesday’s match on the back of a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich booked their fifth successive semi-final spot with a 2-2 draw at Benfica to seal a 3-2 aggregate victory that kept the Germans on course for a treble of titles.
Arturo Vidal’s 38th-minute goal cancelled out the hosts’ early lead through Raul Jimenez’s header and Thomas Mueller’s volley early in the second half eased their nerves.
The Portuguese side, vying for their first semi-final in more than a quarter of a century, managed a late equaliser through Talisca but still suffered their fourth elimination in their fourth European tie against Bayern.
On Tuesday, Manchester City reached the semi-finals for the first time after a tense 1-0 win over Paris St Germain. City sealed a 3-2 aggregate victory with a superb curling shot from Kevin de Bruyne with 14 minutes remaining of the quarter-final, second-leg.
It was the Belgium international’s second goal of the tie after he netted City’s opener in the 2-2 first leg draw in Paris last week.
In Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth Champions League hat-trick inspired Real Madrid to a 3-0 comeback victory over VfL Wolfsburg that clinched a place in the semi-finals for a sixth successive season.
The prolific Portuguese got the ten-time European champions, 2-0 down from the first leg, off to a perfect start by tapping in Daniel Carvajal’s cross after 16 minutes and heading a second goal less than a minute later from Toni Kroos’ corner.
Ronaldo capped a 3-2 win on aggregate when he curled in a free kick after 77 minutes, his 16th goal in this season’s competition taking him within touching distance of his record of 17 in 2013-14.
He also equalled Barcelona rival Lionel Messi’s record of five Champions League trebles as he took his goal tally in all competitions this season to 46.
The open draw will take place on Friday. (Reuters)