Champs League Round of 16 action lives up to hype
Much more than just pride and glory was on the line during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, which saw the white-hot Tottenham Hotspur F.C. defeat its German opponent Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 13.
In what could’ve been considered a grudge match due to Dortmund’s triumph during 2016 under similar circumstances, the Spurs wore out their opponents in the first half and dismantled them with goals coming almost straightaway after halftime, and in quick succession during the 83rd and 86th minutes, to give the Spurs a 3-0 aggregate lead.
Tottenham’s ability to deliberately control the pace of their matches this season has been fine-tuned by manager Mauricio Pochettino to near-perfection.
Their seemingly endless number of weapons, anchored by the sinewy Jan Vertonghen, the dynamic midfielder Dele Alli and electrifying forward Son Heung-min, makes Tottenham an intimidating powerhouse which could perhaps threaten both a rush to the top of the table, and a deep run in this year’s Champions League tourney.
The Belarusian side FC BATE Borisov pulled off a shocking upset, at the hands of struggling Premier League side Arsenal F.C. — nicknamed “The Gunners” — entering the match as a 6 to 1 underdog, Borisov needed only 30 percent possession to send the Gunners home disappointed, to put it mildly. Despite a barrage of quality offensive possessions from both sides, the forwards’ ability to put the ball in the back of the net was kept inside the locker room. Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech — unable to save the strongly headed ball off the head of veteran midfielder Stanislaw Drahun — consequently, allowed his first goal in Europa League competition this season.
It’s shaping up to be season of pain for Arsenal, whose fanbase last saw hardware in the form of the 2017 FA Cup. Following its unbeaten run of 22 games, Arsenal can only boast a rate of acquiring points in 43 percent of matches.
Three-time defending Champions League champion Real Madrid C.F. was unable to find any sort of substantial chemistry during its loss to Girona FC. Throughout the entirety of the match during Feb. 18 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Los Blancos were unresponsive to substantial attacking pressure from 15th placed Girona FC.
Real Madrid finds itself in a problem that is not easily solvable. Despite eight nominees for the Ballon d’Or, Galácticos have been unable to work as a unit this season. Budding players Lucas Vázquez and Vinícius Júnior brim with potential, but are in need of more player-to-player mentorship in order for Real Madrid to truly reach the level of play expected by ownership.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, put on a clinic of class goalkeeping, stopping every first chance Girona put on goal. Fooled by no chance by Girona, the animated Courtois has been somewhat of an energizer to his side, constantly riling up spirits with shouts and an aggressive raise of the arms.