City, Barcelona UCL defeats show unpredictability, power of football

The Liverpool FC, Manchester City match

Many thought Manchester City would beat Liverpool in the second leg, likewise many thought Barcelona had done enough to hold off Roma in the second leg.

But football proved to be the winner with tears in show of the surprises. First, City scored in the second minute and many thought, here we go, but Liverpool held firm while Pep Guardiola was losing his marbles. Mohamed Salah scored his 39th goal of the season and Roberto Firmino stole the ball off Nicolas Otamendi to seal a memorable 2-1 win.

But the real drama was happening at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome as AS Roma staged a remarkable fight back that saw them score three goals without reply against supposedly superior opponents.

There will be so many questions for Ernesto Valverde – is this Barcelona cycle over?

Graham Hunter said, “Ernesto Valverde’s side are often hustled, often pressed but it’s very rare indeed that they are so completely thrown off their stride and leave the pitch with their playing identity basically invisible for the major part of a vital match like this.”

That was what Eusebio di Francesco’s side did so successfully against Barcelona. They hassled, harried, and hurried Lionel Messi into a pattern that was not theirs.

There was a call from Di Francesco before the commencement of the game that would have emboldened Centurions of old. “We’ll play our strongest side against Barcelona. We must play with passion, heart and belief right up until the final whistle if we want to do the unthinkable. We have a duty to give it everything.”

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And give everything the Romans did – outfighting and out-hassling to gain a deserved place in this season’s UEFA Champions League semi-final.

So, don’t rule out Juventus just yet or Sevilla, when both travel to face Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively chasing seemingly insurmountable deficits on Wednesday.

On the evidence of what we saw on Tuesday, anything can happen in 90 minutes, not to talk of 120 or in penalty kicks, which is why we love this game. It is never over until the referee blows.

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