Two of Portugal’s biggest stars came to the fore in the Champions League this week, scoring huge goals for their teams as the semi-final line-up was concluded. However, for both Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva their goals were in vain as Juventus and Manchester City both crashed out against their unfavoured opposition.
Ronaldo repeated his goalscoring form from the first leg to give Juventus the lead against Ajax in Turin, but the Dutch giants stormed back to claim a 2-1 win to progress 3-2 on aggregate on Tuesday. The following night saw a remarkable game in which hosts City and Tottenham Hotspur exchanged four goals in the first eleven minutes leading to a 4-3 win for Bernardo’s side, but they exit the competition on away goals.
For Ronaldo, the defeat at the hands of Ajax denies the Portuguese the chance to win a fourth consecutive Champions League winners’ medal with what would have been a third different club. Ronaldo has already won the competition four times with Real Madrid and once with Manchester United, but despite scoring in both legs for Juventus the Seleção captain exits the competition before the semi-finals.
The teams were all-square at 1-1 following the first leg at the Amsterdam Arena, during which Ronaldo scored his team’s goal with a header from a João Cancelo cross. He repeated the feat in the return leg on Tuesday, once again giving Juve the lead by nodding in Miralem Pjanic’s delivery. However, Ajax equalised through Donny van de Beek (34’) and Matthijs de Ligt headed home the winner in the 67th minute shortly after Cancelo had entered the action for the Bianconeri.
Allegri forced to downplay Ronaldo reliance
Reaction to the defeat in Italy has focused on Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri and his future at the helm, with subsequent reports indicating that Antonio Conte could be set to return to the club next season. Allegri was also asked whether his team had become too reliant on Ronaldo to pull them through, with the forward scoring in both legs of this tie having rescued the Italian champions in the previous round with a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid.
“Did our players expect Ronaldo to resolve everything? No, absolutely not. Ronaldo has given us a lot over the course of the campaign, but when you reach the quarter-final, you need every player.
“I’ve always said that to win the Champions League, you need to reach a certain stage in good form and with good fitness levels. We’ve been in a bit of an emergency situation for a while and that can only be sustained for so long. We were missing four or five players tonight. We lost our unity and organisation, giving Ajax the advantage.”
Bernardo and City out after classic in Manchester
Bernardo Silva also departs the competition at the last eight stage despite scoring in Manchester City’s incredible match with Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium. Bernardo had missed the first leg, which ended 1-0 in Tottenham’s favour in the English capital after what was a surprisingly low-key affair between the Premier League rivals.
The second leg was quite the opposite, with a Champions League record of four goals in less than eleven minutes setting an incredible stage for the evening’s action. Raheem Sterling gave City the lead in the 4th minute to square the tie, but a quickfire double from Spurs’ Son Heung-Min saw the visitors 2-1 up just over five minutes later.
City were stunned, but Bernardo breathed life into their hopes by making it 2-2 with less than eleven minutes on the clock with a left-footed finish which deflected past Hugo Lloris. Sterling put City 3-2 up just after the 20-minute mark to cap a sensational opening to the game, and Sergio Aguero struck just before the hour to put the home side in the driving seat at 4-2 up.
Spurs regained the advantage when Fernando Llorente bundled home on 73 minutes with the goal given after a VAR check for handball, but the real drama was to begin during stoppage time. Sterling fired home to clinch an apparent hat-trick and send the home fans into raptures, only for the goal to be chalked off for an offside call moments later. City and Bernardo must now re-focus ahead of attempting to secure a domestic treble in England, starting with another meeting with Spurs on the same ground on Saturday.
The disappointing exists for Ronaldo and Bernado means there is just a sole Portuguese representative in the final four of the Champions League. Nélson Semedo’s Barcelona take their place in the semi-finals, where they play Liverpool, after dispatching Manchester United 3-0 at Camp Nou and 4-0 on aggregate. Semedo played the final 20 minutes of the match, while Diogo Dalot was a 65th minute introduction for United.
By Sean Gillen