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Champions League play begins to heat up

By MAURICIO RICH

There were unexpected results and surprises in the biggest soccer club competition as the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Champions League knockout stage resumed on Feb. 14 featuring the round of last 16 first tie games.

Two goals from midfielder Angel Di maria, one from winger Julian Draxler and striker Edinson Cavani were enough for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) to thrash FC Barcelona 4-0 at Parc Des Princes, Paris.

Benfica beat Borussia Dortmund 1-0 with Kostas Mitroglou’s winning-goal in the second half at Estadio Da Luz, Lisbon.

This was the first time PSG defeated Barcelona since 2014. Barcelona had an unbeaten record against PSG in knockout stages. Barcelona beat PSG in the 2013 and 2015 editions. On the other hand, PSG has not lost any of their last 16 matches.

“This was a terrible game for Barcelona,” said Nadya Gangotena, a sophomore business major who has been a Barcelona fan her whole life. “Barcelona is the best team in the world, but PSG is the dominant team in France.”

“PSG had an amazing performance and they deserved to win,” said Andy LeHardy, a sophomore economics major. “Barcelona still can win, but they would have to score five goals in the second leg.”

Barcelona was far from their best performance in European soccer. The only way for the Spanish side to qualify to the quarter-finals is to score at least five goals in Spain and prevent one goal from PSG. If Barcelona score four goals, the game will go to extra time. The second leg will be held at Camp Nou, Barcelona on March 8.

It was a night of nightmares for Dortmund. They dominated the possession of the ball, had 686 completed passes and had 11 shots on target, but their defense could not prevent Mitroglou to score the only goal of the game.

Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed three clear chances, including a saved penalty by Benfica’s goalkeeper Ederson, who was awarded the best player of the game by FIFA and had 17 clearances from goal.

“Dortmund can still recover from this defeat,” said sophomore business major Antonio Papatzikos, who started supported Dortmund when they reached the final in 2013. “They attacked so much that I honestly don’t understand how that ball did not go in.”  

“Sometimes this game is very unfair, but that is how it is,” said sophomore finance major James Pantin. “Benfica had one shot on target and they were able to score the decisive goal of the game. I think they had a little bit of luck.”

Dortmund can still qualify to the quarter-finals. They would have to score at least two goals at home and do not let Benfica score as visitors due to away-goal rule, which doubles the goal if the away side scores. One goal from the Germans will take the game to extra time. The second leg is scheduled to be played on March 8 at Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund.

The second round of the of last 16 first tie games are on Feb. 21. Bayer Leverkusen will face Atletico Madrid and Monaco will travel to Manchester to play against Manchester City for the first time in Champions League history.
Also in the second round, Porto will receive Italian champions Juventus while English champions Leicester City will travel to Spain to face Sevilla on Feb. 22. All four games are scheduled to be played at 2:45 p.m. eastern time.

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