Portugal may not have any teams left in this year's Champions League, but a strong Portuguese presence made itself felt at the quarter-final stage of the world's greatest club competition.
On Tuesday night the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo scored yet another hat-trick in the competition to propel his Real Madrid side past Bayern Munich. A 4-2 win in the Spanish capital resulted in a 6-3 aggregate win, with the Portugal captain scoring five of his team's six goals in the tie, in so doing becoming the first player to score 100 goals in the Champions League.
On Wednesday it was Monaco, managed by Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim, who took the plaudits as their spectacular run continued with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund to complete a 6-3 victory on aggregate. Portuguese left-back Raphael Guerreiro started for the German outfit, but it was his international team-mates Bernardo Silva and João Moutinho, also both lining up from the start, for Monaco, who left the pitch victorious.
Ronaldo silences the whistles... from his own fans
Champions League holders Real Madrid started as strong favourites having won 2-1 in Munich last week, and after a lively opening 15 minutes from the visitors the Spanish team began to boss the game. They were unable to find a breakthrough however, and when Lewandoski slotted home a penalty in the 53rd minute and Bayern began to get the upper hand, the momentum appeared to have swung the Germans' way.
A fine header by Ronaldo from a Casemiro cross momentarily levelled the scores on the night, but immediately a comical Sérgio Ramos own goal made it 3-3 on aggregate. A controversial red card for Bayern's Artur Vidal shortly afterwards proved crucial as Real Madrid made the extra man and home advantage tell in extra time.
Ronaldo put the Spanish giants back in front on the night with a neat chest down and left-foot finish past Neuer, although the goal should have been ruled out for offside, then completed his hat-trick with simple right-foot finish after being set up by the outstanding Marcelo. Marco Arsenio rubbed salt into Bayern's wounds with a fourth goal but again it was Cristiano Ronaldo who was king of the Bernabeu.
The astonishing rate at which he has scored for the Merengues makes it even more incredulous that whistles from the home supporters are frequently directed at him, something that happened last night before his three-goal salvo.
"I only ask that they don't whistle me because I always give my best for Real Madrid," said Ronaldo in the post-match interview. It is probably a forlorn hope. After all, if he's whistled when he scores 50+ goals a season, one shudders to think what will happen should he ever slow his scoring rate.
No stopping Monaco
In a competition where the quality of football is undisputed but the same old names make the latter stages year after year, Monaco's swashbuckling team has been a breath of fresh air and a joy to watch and they made history on Wednesday night. As coach Leonardo Jardim pointed out in the post-match interview: "Monaco are the first team who entered the competition in the third qualifying round to reach the semi-finals."
A set of wildly talented exciting young players such as full-backs Toure and Mendy, midfielders Bakayoko and Lemar and the frighteningly good 18-year-old striker Kylian Mbappé are superbly complemented by former FC Porto centre-forward Radamel Falcao, who despite losing some of his power and pace continues to have his predatory instincts intact.
The marvellous blend of youth and experience is encapsulated in Monaco's two Portuguese midfielders Bernardo Silva and João Moutinho. The former has enjoyed an exceptional season and has the world at his feet and it is surely only a matter of time before the stylish and lavishly skilled Benfica academy product becomes a fixture in Portugal's national team.
João Moutinho, now 30 years old, continues to be João Moutinho. Calmly and competently doing his job knitting everything together in midfield, tirelessly working away in order to allow his team-mates to shine.
Both Silva and Moutinho started and played virtually the whole 90 minutes, Silva coming off in the dying seconds of the match.
Any hopes Dortmund harboured of overturning the 3-2 deficit from the 1st leg were destroyed in the first 20 minutes as Mbappé and Falcao struck to increase Monaco's aggregate lead to three goals. Marco Reus pulled a goal back for the Germans in the second half, but Jardim saw to it that there was no twist in the tail, constantly instructing his team to keep their concentration and shape and sending on striker Valere Germain for Mbappé, who put the ball in the net 20 seconds after the substitution was made.
Truth be told, only some profligate finishing and superb goalkeeping by Borussia stopper Roman Buerki prevented an embarrassing scoreline for the Bundesliga team. As well as being irresistible in attack, Monaco were tonight very impressive in defence.
Could Leonardo Jardim's side cause another surprise? The other semi-finalists Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Juventus are probably rooting to draw the French side in the last-four draw on Friday. Just like Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund probably were.
by Tom Kundert