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 

 

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    I had a feeling that these four teams would advance to the semi finals when the quarter finalists were drawn. Real Madrid and Juventus are probably the favorites to win it all, but Atleti and Monaco are also more than capable of going all the way. I would love to see either Real Madrid or Monaco win it all due to their Portuguese connection, but I also wouldn't mind seeing Atleti win it after their two heart-breaking defeats to their bitter rivals over the past three years, and I wouldn't mind seeing Juve win it all since Buffon definitely deserves it.

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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    Another year has arrived without a Premier League side in the Champions League semis, and just a single appearance in the last five years. When can we stop referring to it as the best or one of the best leagues in Europe?
    It actually reminds me a lot of England's national team, a lot of hype, but little in the way of results.

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  • Guest - Justin/Rochester

    @ Danny Dasilva
    The premier league is the most competitive league in the world. I don't know if it's the "best" though. I live in the USA so I watch a lot of the EPL because of the cable package I have shows the games. That's not to say that I don't watch the other leagues too because I do but the EPL is shown here a lot. Anyways, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man U, Man city, Liverpool and arsenal are all great teams and with teams like Everton, west ham and crystal palace there's always a fighting spirit to these games that I feel isn't as prevalent in other leagues. The crowd atmosphere plays a big part as well as the configuration of the stadium seating. Unlike other countries, the English fans are within spitting distance of the field. When you watch other leagues, yeah sure the stadiums are full but it's not the same feeling in my opinion. Those first 6 teams I named are all high quality teams and despite how they're doing in the Europa or champions league recently, I rate those 6 teams better compared to any other leagues top 6 teams. The EPL games are very physical and fast paced so you have to take that into account as far as fatigue goes when these teams enter into European competition. Just for the sake of example, when Man city plays a bottom team like watford on a Saturday, that game might end up 2-1 and will be intensely physical. Compare that to when a Real Madrid plays a bottom team like Granada, the majority of the time it will end up 4-0 and turn into a glorified training session for Madrid. Obviously on rare occasion these top teams in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal etc. do get challenged by a bottom team but it's just not on the weekly level of the EPL.

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  • Yes Justin/Rochester,

    Have to agree with most of the things you said about the BPL. Its hard to compare BPL to other leagues when trying to make the best league argument. They just have different styles of play in my opinion. British football in general is at most time 100 miles an hour right to the end, whilst in Spain and other continental countries a team goes a goal or two down and they start thinking about the next game. Less pressure allows players to express themselves and develop more technically. Like Mourinho said Real can play their reserve team and still win and get a positive result, whereas all BPL teams are competitive even ones like Middlesbrough. European football also requires a different more patient style of play and the referees are more generally strict on physical challenges.

    from Melbourne VIC, Australia
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