The first legs of the Champions League round of 16 concluded on Wednesday with Juventus going to Atletico Madrid and Schalke hosting Manchester City. Cristiano Ronaldo failed to terrorize his former city rivals, as Atletico’s Uruguayan central defensive duo scored in a surprising, deserved 2-0 victory. In Germany, Schalke scored two penalty kicks to take a 2-1 lead, but goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling helped 10-man City to a 3-2 road win. Here are the takeaways from the two exciting matches:
Resilient City in great shape to move on
It looked like City would be headed for a 2-1 defeat, especially after the red card to center back Nicolas Otamendi early in the second half. But the club did well to battle back, scoring two fantastic goals to earn the win and pocket three away tallies.
City took the lead just 18 minutes in thanks to Sergio Aguero capitalizing on an error, but Nabil Bentaleb had two penalty-kick goals in seven minutes to help Schalke enter the break up 2-1.
Then, with five minutes to go, Sane punished his former team with an absolutely delicious free kick.
Then in the 90th minute, goalkeeper Ederson got the assist with a crazy ball over the top to Sterling, who fought off his defender and finished calmly:
That result puts City in a fantastic spot. If they avoid defeat, they move on. They can also lose 1-0 or 2-1 and also move on due to away goals.
Coming back with 10 guys was as impressive of a result as we’ve seen from them lately (aside from beating Chelsea 6-0), and it puts them in the driver’s seat to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Atleti deserved the win and could have had more
It’s been a rough little run for Atletico Madrid as of late. They had a shocking loss at Real Betis and then got crushed at home against rival Real Madrid. But welcoming back Ronaldo to the Spanish capital on Wednesday, it’s a result they won’t soon forget. Both teams had chances, both teams focused more on the defensive end and just when it felt like we’d get another 0-0 draw, Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin both scored on set pieces, a play Juve usually doesn’t have trouble defending.
Here’s the winner:
Juventus didn’t look like a contender and are now in trouble
Perhaps the domination in Serie A doesn’t have this team well prepared for stiffer competition. Juve lost to a then-poor Manchester United in the fall and also lost to Young Boys. And here, once again, the team didn’t look sharp. Aside from a couple decent chances, Juve had issues moving the ball down the flanks. With Godin and Gimenez doing their jobs in the middle of the defense, Juve looked for those crosses into the box but really couldn’t produce much at all.
With the goal of getting at least one goal on the road, Juve now returns home empty handed and in a bit of trouble. If Atleti scores just one goal, Juve will need three to score four.
Will Diego Simeone coach in the second leg?
Keep an eye on Atleti coach Diego Simeone. After Atletico scored, he went with the crotch-grabbing celebration right in front of the camera. He wasn’t punished by the official as a result, but it will be interesting to see if UEFA decides to fine him or possibly suspend him. It seems rather unlikely though.
Simeone was suspended for last season’s Europa League final and this season’s UEFA Super Cup for aggressively speaking to an official, so it’s safe to say he is on UEFA’s radar and they’ll likely take a look and discuss some sort of punishment. If anything though, it would likely just be a fine. But he’s likely to get a reminder from the higher-ups at the club to try and calm down a bit on the sideline.
Atleti heads to Juventus for the second leg on March 12, and Champions League matches can be streamed on fuboTV (Try for free).
Relive Wednesday’s UCL action
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