The men from APOEL continue making history in the Knockout Stage and are already qualified for Quarterfinals; along with the Cypriots are Benfica, Milan and Barcelona.
By Camilla Mancini
The eight clubs advancing from the Round of 16 to quarterfinals are almost complete with four clubs in and four empty spots set to be filled between next Tuesday and Wednesday. Milan and Barcelona are already qualified as it was expected; however the way they did it wasn’t exactly as we picture it. The Italians for example allowed Arsenal to scare a bit the Rossoneri fans with three goals against, from Koscielny, Rosicky and the Gunners top goal scorer, Robin Van Persie. But in the end, the 4-0 victory at San Siro three weeks ago gave Milan the point needed in the aggregate to continue in the Champions League.
In Barcelona‘s case, it went the opposite way, and when crushing Bayer Leverkusen would’ve been enough, they instead made a bloodbath of the German club. The 7-1 result at Camp Nou that settled which one of these groups would join the last 8 phase, has been the highest defeat of the knockout stage so far. Actually the ones who settled it were Lionel Messi and Cristian Tello, for they scored 5 and 2 goals respectively. The lonely goal from Leverkusen was placed by Karim Bellarabi when Barça was more than safe, at the 90’.
After their fought first leg fixture against Zenit, Benfica recovered the necessary points on Tuesday with a 2-0, which has placed the Eagles in quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. Two goals were exactly what the Portuguese needed to run over the Russians and though they converted the second goal a little late, patience paid back well. Once again Maxi Pereira opened the scoring against Zenit, this time during the first minute of the first half’s injury time. After the break you could cut the tension with a knife in the Estadio da Luz as both clubs were looking for the advantage that would keep them in the tournament; still only one could win and it would be Nelson Oliveira the one to obtain the triumph for Benfica by intercepting a pass from Bruno Cesar in the 90′.
Nicosia, homeland of APOEL, must be still cover in confetti after the celebration for the victory, because this club not only is the first Cypriot club to reach the knockout stage, but it keeps also advancing in the competition. Although the first match was a triumph for Lyon, the 1-0 didn’t look like the biggest threat for APOEL, since it was a low advantage for the French. So, on Wednesday the Cypriots stood up firmly to Lyon and early in the encounter settle the tied on the aggregate score with a goal from Gustavo Manduca.
But the first 90 minutes passed by with no changes on the score as well as the extra 30 minutes, so the draw had to be unsettled with penalties. Lyon started the shootout with Kim Kallstrom, followed by Lisandro and Gomis; while the hosts’ first three men were Aílton, Nuno Morais and Alexandrou. Until then every player had converted their penalties, keeping it even in 3s. However Dionissis Chiotis sharpen up and when the next two men from OL, Alexandre Lacazette and Michael Bastos stood in front of him, Chiotis put a stop to their hits and saved his team. To help Chiotis, Ivan Trickovski scored the last for the Cypriots and together placed the 4-3 in the penalties shootout.