Barcelona take control of CL quarter-final, Ajax draw with Juventus

0
53

Berlin – Barcelona took control of their Champions League quarter-final with Manchester United by winning the first leg 1-0 at Old Trafford on Wednesday while Ajax drew 1-1 at home to Juventus.

Luke Shaw nudged Luis Suarez’s header over his own line after 12 minutes to give Barcelona the advantage heading into the return leg at home next Tuesday.

In Amsterdam, Cristiano Ronaldo struck in the last minute of the first half to put Juventus in front in a repeat of the 1996 final they won on penalties. Ajax fought back through David Neres immediately after the restart to balance the tie going back to Turin.

Liverpool beat Porto 2-0 and Tottenham Hotspur edged out Manchester City 1-0 in the other quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Barcelona started positively in Manchester and soon broke the United resistance. Lionel Messi ran onto a chipped pass behind the defence and though Suarez’s back-post header from his cross was going just wide, Shaw turned it into the net.

United rallied with some long-range shots off target and had keeper David De Gea to thank for a quick foot denying Philippe Coutinho from the edge of the box.

Messi took a bloody nose from being clattered by Chris Smalling but was able to continue.

Diogo Dalot misjudged a header with United’s best chance to level and Barcelona, who have not won the European crown since 2015 as rivals Real Madrid dominated, held onto their lead.

“You know when you play Barcelona you have to play well without the ball,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “You might be tired when you get the ball, as well.

“We’ll tighten up a few things and go there with one thing in mind – to score. We’ll go there with the knowledge that we can score.”

Should Barcelona complete the job at home, against the side they beat in 2009 and 2011 finals, they could meet another Premier League outfit in the last four if Liverpool see off Porto.

United require a repeat their last 16 heroics when they defeated Paris Saint-Germain 3-3 on away goals having lost the first leg 2-0 at home.

“After seeing the PSG game, you do not have to trust the result, they came in Paris with a better result and look what happened, big clubs can do these things, you have to work it out,” said Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, who was with United as a youth.

“It was special to come here after so many years. We are defensively at the best moment of the season, I feel comfortable [and] very well because of my age and experience.”

Juventus could recall Ronaldo after their star was injured on international duty with Portugal at the end of last month and he did not disappoint.

After a quiet 44 minutes, he fed Joao Cancelo from the centre of the pitch and surged into the box to meet the right back’s cross with a thumping header beyond Andre Onana.

“Once again Ronaldo proved to be on a different level, his movements and his sense of timing are simply different from the others,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

The goal was harsh on Ajax who had been stronger to that point with Hakim Ziyech and Donny van de Beek both going close.

“We have shown that we are a team with potential,” said Ajax’s 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt.

But the youthful side who ended Real’s reign were not to be denied and they levelled seconds after the restart. Cancelo turned from hero to villain as he was robbed of possession and Neres cut in from the left flank to curl beyond Wojciech Szczesny.

Ajax controlled the majority of the remainder but Szczesny parried from teenage substitute Jurgen Ekkelenkamp, on his Champions League debut, to keep out their best chance of a winner.

And Juventus almost stole it in the dying minutes when Douglas Costa hit the post after a fine solo run.

“There’s 90 minutes left in the tie, let’s win at home and reach the semi-finals,” said Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur. “They scored immediately after the break making everything very difficult for us for a long spell after the equalizer.

“However we finished the game better and we can be confident for the return leg.”

Juventus have lost two finals in the last four years and if they overcome Ajax will meet Spurs or Manchester City in the last hurdle before the June 1 showpiece in Madrid this year. (dpa)