United and Ajax Add to Their History as PSG and Madrid Crumble – Notes from the UCL R16 2nd Legs.

Cue the VAR madness. The ref pointed to the spot to issue a penalty and give him credit for having Diego Siemone cajones. Even the new rules of the “silhouette” for a defender wouldn’t make this call clear.

Daley Blind celebrates at the Bernabeu. [Getty]

It is absolutely impossible to decide where to start. Ajax stunned the world winning 4-1 on the night in Madrid to knock out Real 5-3 on aggregate. Manchester United overturned a two away goal deficit at the Parc de Princes winning on a dramatic stoppage time penalty by Manchester native Marcus Rashford after a VAR review. Porto and Roma battled it out like gladiators through extra time with the Portuguese side going through also thanks to a late PK awarded after a VAR check. Meanwhile, with very little drama, Tottenham padded their lead topping Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate.


The major storylines are endless, but we have to start somewhere so why not at Home.


Same Ole for United and Same Ole Story for PSG


United's historic Champions League win over PSG ended any doubt over Solskjaer's future (Image: Getty)

I can’t imagine what’s worse, blowing a 4 goal lead on the road or giving up a two away goal lead at home. Only PSG fans can tell us as they once again blew a 1st leg lead in the knockouts of the Champions League again, losing 3-1 on the night losing on the away goals rule to Manchester United.


What a performance for Manchester. Lukaku opened the scoring in the 2nd minute which is exactly what they needed. Then Juan Bernat pulled one back for the Parisians in the first half before Lukaku bagged his third brace in as many games capitalizing on a Buffon howler.


And then came the moment. Two teenage subs on because of the massive injury list and with United on the ropes in stoppage time, Diogo Dalot ambitiously shoots from outside of the box only for the ball to strike Presnel Kimpembe on the arm as he jumped.


Cue the VAR madness. The ref pointed to the spot to issue a penalty and give him credit for having Diego Siemone cajones. Even the new rules of the “silhouette” for a defender wouldn’t make this call clear.


Up stepped Marcus Rashford after a lengthy delay and gamesmanship from the home side. None of it bothered him as he bashed the back of the net to send United to the quarterfinals.


Rashford celebrates his late winner (Image: Getty Images)

Is the agony of a stoppage time penalty winner in Paris worse than getting demolished 6-1 at the Camp Nou? This loss has to hurt much more for PSG. So, I guess I can imagine which is worse.


On this night, PSG were at home. They had a 2 away goal advantage. They had one goal ruled out from VAR. They weren’t sharp. Kehrer made a huge mistake that led to the first goal. Mbappe uncharacteristically took several bad touches. He couldn’t get the ball out of his feet a few times.


They invested a boatload of money into Neymar. He didn’t even play because of injury. United did not have Paul Pogba, their best player of the past few months. They had 9 more injured players. They subbed on two teenagers who made their Champions League debuts and have a total of 1 Premier League appearance between the two of them.


And on top of all that, PSG made history by becoming the first team to win by two goals away from home in the first leg and then losing the tie.


I criticize Spurs relentlessly for not winning big games (more on them below) and call them Spursy. That has now changed. It is forever Parisy for blowing leads and not winning big games.


Solskjaer’s Got the Job, right?


When does Solskjaer get his statue outside Old Trafford? Someone has to be carving up the bust as we speak because it’s impossible to not give him the job now, isn’t it? I don’t buy the argument that he hasn’t had a bad spell so Ed Woodward and the board don’t know how he’ll handle that situation or how the players will react so they can’t hire him full time yet.


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the Parc des Princes (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

That’s pure poppycock. Solskjaer masterfully handled having to use all three subs in the first half because of injury when they played Liverpool and now got it spot on with their backs up against the wall in France.


Before the game, the Norwegian said United just needed to be within one goal around 70 minutes and they’d be able to win it. That is exactly what happened.


Glory Glory Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. In Ole We Trust.


Tuchel Unemployed Again?


On the other side of the halfway line, what happens to Thomas Tuchel? I don’t think he should get fired because I think he’s done a good job changing formations when needed and especially turning Marquinhos into a solid, reliable defensive midfielder.


Previous PSG coaches have been sacked for failing in the Champions League — will Tuchel. (Image: Action Images via Reuters)

It’s not my decision to make though.


He had one task when he got hired….win the Champions League. Not only will PSG not win it, they went out at the exact same stage as last year, the Round of 16. Beyond that, they got knocked out in the Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinals. Results wise, Tuchel’s PSG is worse than Unai Emery’s.


Granted, the Spaniard didn’t appear to have control of the locker room and the myriad of stars where the German does. But does that matter to the Qatari owners? The control or lack thereof is not the reason that PSG didn’t win last year nor the reason they won’t this year.


Besides, who would they replace him with? Mourinho? Wenger? Conte? Zidane? Someone else who is currently employed? Pochettino?


(Image: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

I believe that Tuchel should stay and get another crack at the Champions League with PSG. Again though, it’s not up to me.


Young Ajax Doesn’t Need ‘Experience’


I hate the “experience” argument to explain a team’s win. It’s intangible, immeasurable, and lazy. And on so many occasions it’s proven irrelevant like Ajax’s demolition of Real Madrid at the Bernebeu. 4-1 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. The Dutch giants thoroughly dismantled Madrid with Dusan Tadic leading the way as a goal scorer and playmaker while also getting help from the entire supporting cast.


Ajax were in fine form at the Bernabeu. (AFP/Getty Images)

In the group stage, Ajax impressed drawing two fantastic games with Bayern and even had a chance to top the group on the last matchday. I, along with many others, thought their Champions League campaign ended with the Round of 16 draw giving them Real Madrid. But they rose to the occasion and sent the three time running champions home.


The Dutch league and Ajax in particular are famous for developing young talent and it is no different here. Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek, and Frankie de Jong have been instrumental in the team and they’re all 21 or younger.


Due to this performance and any more magic that comes in the subsequent rounds, their names will be added to the list of young starlets who made their name in Amsterdam, which includes Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Frank de Boer, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Luis Suarez, and many more.


Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday night (Image: Getty Images)

What an incredible run for this young, talented team. And when will it end? As always, it depends on the draw for the quarterfinals. Also, can they keep the team together past this year? Does the club want to keep everyone or sell off the pieces one by one as they’ve always done? Would Frenkie De Jong still have signed for Barcelona in the summer or would he have stayed for another year seeing their success this year? Would Barcelona have paid an even higher fee to buy him if Ajax get to the semifinals or final? Who is the next youngster to leave the club?


All good questions for Ajax.


“Fall-a” Madrid


Tomorrow’s headline in the Barcelona papers will read “Julen Lopetegui, former Madrid manager, found dead from laughter induced heart attack.” He had to enjoy this and feel vindicated.


Real Madrid crashed out of the Champions League against Ajax (Image: Getty Images)

As of this writing, Madridistas have not burned down the Bernebeu in disgust, anger, or protest, but by the time you read this, that may have changed. Three home losses in the past week, two to Barcelona no less, and each match ended their chances of winning a trophy this year. So for Los Blancos, the sky is falling, hell has frozen over, and Armageddon has arrived.


This is without a shadow of a doubt the lowest point in recent history for Real Madrid not only because they won’t win any silverware, but also because of the problems surrounding the club. They both hired and fired Lopetegui before Christmas, appointed Santi Solari who won’t return next year and may not even manage the next game, never replaced Cristiano Ronaldo, have struggled in attack all year, and have a big issue with Gareth Bale who won’t even celebrate goals with his teammates.


Ajax’s win gave them a lot of positive questions for the future while Madrid’s unknowns take on the exact opposite feeling. What will they do come this summer? Who will they keep? Who will they buy and sell? How much will the overhaul cost? And who will manage the team?


Additionally, does Eden Hazard still want to go to Real Madrid in this time of uncertainty and transition? Does his price tag go up out of desperation by Madrid? Will he stay at Chelsea if Zidane goes to London or will he follow him to Madrid, with new reports already surfacing that Zidane is considering taking the job again in the Spanish capital?


Santiago Solari isn't looking to quit Real Madrid (Image: REUTERS)

Everything goes in cycles and eventually Madrid would fall from grace but the manner in which it happened is shocking. All signs pointed to this happening but it was hard to see or believe because it was Real.


They bigger they are, the harder they fall. Real’s collapsed hard, fell even harder, and will have the biggest shakeup known to man this summer.



Spurs March On…..Finally


Tottenham finally proved me wrong. I never pick Spurs in a big game because they always find a way to blow it. However, against Dortmund they finally won a big game as they advanced to the quarterfinals 4-0 on aggregate. Despite Dortmund’s stumble since coming back from the winter break, Pochettino and Spurs deserve credit for shutting them out for 180 minutes.


Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld and Ben Davies celebrate after the match (Image: Action Images via Reuters)

In the first leg, Pochettino pulled an absolute masterclass out of his pocket which included Jan Vertonghen playing as a left wingback and got it 100% spot on in the second leg setting up with 5 at the back knowing Dortmund had to come out swinging.


The defense stood tall making good blocks and tackles as well as Lloris stopping everything that came his way. The Germans threw everything they could at Spurs and had a handful of good shots on goal but couldn’t find the end product they needed so desperately.


Spurs deserve all the credit in the world for outplaying, outmanaging, and outdoing Borussia Dortmund in ever aspect over these two games.


Will Tottenham get past the quarterfinals? I retract my earlier statement from the beginning of this article when I said Spursy is no more. They will find a way to blow it in the quarterfinals and possibly the top 4 race in England too.


Tottenham booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals (Image: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Tottenham should celebrate the win but of course they’ll return to their true selves next chance they get. Even the sun shines on Spurs’s ass some days.



Dragons Burn the Roman Warriors


FC Porto doesn’t have the superstars, doesn’t play in the best league, nor does it necessarily play the best football. But that doesn’t matter. They’re on to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since the 14/15 season and they earned it.


Porto’s Alex Telles celebrates scoring a VAR penalty in extra time to eliminate Roma. [Quality Sport Images/Getty Images]

Porto fought back from 2-1 down after the first leg to win 4-3 on aggregate after extra time. Alex Telles impacted the left side throughout the night and was the hero when he banged in the winner from the spot on 117’.


From the beginning, this tie was a toss up and having watched both legs play out, these teams could play 10 more times and probably evenly split both wins and losses as well as goals scored. That’s how close they are.


Unfortunately, VAR reared it’s ugly head in the extra half hour. Roma substitute Alessandro Florenzi initially got away with pulling an opponents shirt and keeping him from reaching a dangerous cross in the box, but the referee checked the video and awarded the spot kick that Tellez banged in.


Just a few minutes later, the ref did not check the video on a possible foul in the box that could’ve given Roma their own spot kick.


Unfortunately for the Italians, neither they nor their opponents are as high profile as PSG or Manchester United so the VAR debate will mostly skip over them. Was it a foul? Watching live it didn’t seem like it but on the replay it definitely looked like an accidental trip of the attacking player.


Regardless, no one can blame VAR for Roma losing the game. Edin Dzeko missed two chances in the additional minutes that could’ve sealed it for them. Also, Florenzi didn’t need to tug on the shirt to give up a late penalty.


AS Roma have parted ways with manager Eusebio Di Francesco after the team were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Porto. [JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images]

Porto and Roma battled to the end and both deserved to go through. The Dragons got some good luck on the night while the Gladiators didn’t.


Written by Drew Pells [@DrewPells].

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