UCL Highlights: Marega unleashed, AS Roma deceased, & the Manchester Miracle
Mali’s Marega outstanding as FC Porto advance at the expense of AS Roma
He was missing in the first leg played in Italy and Porto had to succumb to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of last year’s semi-finalists. This 27-year-old, Marega, was a real clutch for the Primeira Liga side who finished unbeaten in the UCL group stages as he became the first African to score in five consecutive champions league matches. His return to the starting line-up couldn’t have been any better. Within 25 minutes, the Beast won the ball from an unsuspecting Roma defender, fed up Jesus Corona and sped to receive the ball and cut it back to Francisco Soares for the home side’s opener. A dream start that levelled the aggregate score and put Porto on the verge of qualifying for the quarter-finals, only if they could keep the clean sheet.
It was not to be as some rush defending led to a Roma penalty in the 37th minute, which Daniele De Rossi comfortably slotted home past the world cup winner, Iker Casillas. The 2017/18 champions had to go again and this time, Marega was on the receiving end as he netted in the 52nd minute, for his 6th goal in 6 Champions League appearances, an historic feat only achieved by five other global footballers.
In the end, VAR had the final say as it seems to be doing these days as Porto were awarded a penalty in the 117th minute of extra time. Alex Telles made no mistake as he converted to send the Portuguese champions through to the quarter-finals.
Lukaku bags a brace as Ole’s United shock PSG
There is really something going on with the Manchester United legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The 46-year-old is almost always getting everything right in his 6 months tenure as the Red Devils’ caretaker boss. United went into the second leg of the UCL round of 16 needing a miracle as they had fallen to a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of the Parisians. The entire story between the two teams actually became earmarked by the blessing in disguise of having injured players.
In Manchester, Ole was hit by the element of surprise as Thomas Tuchel made the most of his squad without Cavani or Neymar. The German outsmarted Ole by setting up a midfield of five that obliterated Pogba and set Mbappe on his way. On the other hand, Manchester United travelled to Paris without the suspended Pogba, Sanchez, Martial, Herrera, Matic and many other first team players. Ole pulled one over Tuchel and set up a more conservative side with a defensive line of five relied on catching PSG on the break. Of course the Ligue 1 side looked tame throughout the match and their figured approach didn’t bear a lot of fruits. Instead they made errors which Romelu Lukaku hungrily capitalised on, needing no second invitation, one in the 2nd minute and another in the 30th minute. The decider was another VAR decision which awarded the visitors a penalty in the 90th minute. Only the word miracle can describe United’s progression into the quarter-finals, all the decisions and mistakes of the night worked in their favor. The star studded Parisian side was humbled to yet another UCL early exit and my earlier assessment of their apathy for champions league glory may be realer than the word itself.
Elsewhere, Harry Kane and Tottenham silenced the Yellow-Wall at Signal Iduna Park as they grabbed a narrow 1-0 victory that allowed them to advance to the quarter-finals on a 4-0 aggregate win over Borussia Dortmund.