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Barcelona, Bayern Munich outclassed their opponents for q/f

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Barcelona and Bayern Munich are through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after some sterling performances on Wednesday night.

While Holders Barcelona cruised non-stop with a 3-1 second-leg victory over Arsenal at the Nou Camp, Bayern Munich over-ruled a 2-0 deficiency to douse visiting Juventus.

The first leg encounters produced interesting results too; while Barcelona won 2-0 away, Bayern Munich drew 0-0 away in Turin only to gift their home fans with desired impressive wins.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Lionel Messi forced David Ospina into a stunning save from close range, before Neymar slotted home a low finish. Danny Welbeck hit the woodwork before Messi chipped in a sublime third.

Mohamed Elneny lashed in for Arsenal in the second half but Luis Suarez struck a brilliant volley for Barcelona.

Bayern Munich fought back hard from two first-half goals to send a bewildered  Juventus home with a 4-2 spanking.

Arsenal is left with wounds to leak after stream of losses, starting with getting kicked out of the FA Cup losing against Watford last weekend.

They suffered their sixth straight last-16 exit from the Champions League too, leaving their season in disarray.

Arsenal’s season looked good a couple of months ago sitting on top of the Premier League on 4 January but two wins in nine league games since has seen them fall 11 points behind leaders Leicester, although they do have a game in hand on the Foxes.

Arsene Wenger’s team selection for the match in Spain perhaps suggested he might have had one eye on Saturday’s Premier League match at Everton.

The Frenchman, for example, gave 19-year-old forward Alex Iwobi his first Champions League start and left out Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. 

Experienced defender Per Mertesacker was left on the bench, with Laurent Koscielny starting alongside Gabriel in the centre of defence.

Arsenal had plenty of shots against Barcelona but only three (left) hit the target. Nine were off target (middle) and eight were blocked (right).

Arsenal put in a creditable display away from home but Elneny’s stunning goal on 51 minutes – a precise strike from 18 yards and his first for the club – was their only reward for a display that saw them create numerous promising attacking positions.

Iwobi blazed over the crossbar when in a good position and Alexis Sanchez should have found the back of the net with a header from eight yards.

The difference over the two legs was the finishing and it was a cool, low shot by Neymar that opened the scoring for the hosts.

Not only was Luis Suarez’s strike a stunning one, it finished off a mesmerising Barcelona move.

Former Liverpool man Suarez, who Arsenal attempted to sign in 2013, scored the pick of Barca’s goals, the Uruguayan leaping acrobatically to convert Dani Alves’s cross into the top corner for his 46th goal of an incredible season.

Suarez’s hot run of form has seen him net 17 goals in his last 14 games and taken his tally to 40 for the season at the Nou Camp – how Arsenal could do with him in their side.

There was still time for Messi to get in on the act, delightfully dinking the ball over Ospina late on.

The win means Barcelona are into the last eight of the competition for a record ninth straight season. It also stretched Barcelona’s unbeaten run to 38 games in all competitions as they aim to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era.

No side has won back-to-back European Cups since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990. The Catalans remain on course for consecutive trebles of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey.

Luis Enrique’s side sit eight points clear at the top of the Spanish league with nine matches remaining and meet Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final in May.

Barcelona face Villarreal in the league on Sunday (kick-off 15:00 GMT), while Arsenal will look to salvage their season with a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Saturday (12:45 GMT).

Before then Barca will discover who they will play in the quarter-finals of the Champions League when they draw takes place on Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.

Bayern Munich fought back from two goals down to beat Juventus in extra time, dramatically progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals.

With the tie poised at 2-2 after the first leg, Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado scored to put Juve in command.

Robert Lewandowski’s header gave Bayern hope but Juve looked to have seen them off until Thomas Muller’s 90th-minute goal forced the match into extra time. And a buoyed Bayern finished in style through Thiago and Kingsley Coman.

The hosts – who had dominated possession to little effect in normal time – played with more urgency after Muller’s lifeline, with the introduction of substitutes Coman and Thiago playing a key part in the turnaround.

Juventus will not only have to come to terms with falling so close to the finishing line, but the pill will be even more bitter knowing that the player who inflicted the killer blow was Coman, a talented teenager on long-term loan at Bayern from the Bianconeri.

The 19-year-old Frenchman made three assists in Bayern’s 5-0 thumping of Werder Bremen in the league at the weekend and was once again influential when he replaced the ineffective Xabi Alonso after an hour.

Juventus have won all but one of their past 19 Serie A games and not conceded in the league for nearly two months, but despite such impressive form Massimiliano Allegri maintained his team would have to enjoy the “perfect game” to beat opponents who had won their past nine European home games by an aggregate score of 36-4.

But Muller struck after a fine Coman cross to give an enthralling match an added twist. Coman played a part in Bayern’s opener, too – his dash to the byline prevented the ball from going out and he then fed Douglas Costa, whose drifted cross towards the far post found the clinical Lewandowski.

Last year’s runners-up showed remarkable resistance in coming back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the first leg – Bayern boss Pep Guardiola [below] said his respect for the Italians was even greater as a result – and they had clearly learned from the mistakes of Turin.

On a number of occasions Juve were able to bisect Bayern’s defence with one pass. Manuel Neuer, in particular, looked harassed by Juve’s high-tempo style. He gambled and lost early on, rushing off his line and allowing Stephan Lichtsteiner’s shot to ricochet off him into the path of Pogba, who side-footed home into an unmanned net.

The offside flag then came to the German goalkeeper’s rescue. Alvaro Morata put the ball in the net after a poor clearance from Neuer, and replays would later show that disallowing the goal was the wrong decision.

But the visitors did double their advantage and did so with panache. The impressive Morata sashayed through the middle, beating a host of defenders and unselfishly fed Cuadrado, who jinked inside the box before arrowing the ball in at the near post.

The Italians were dominant and on course to knock Bayern out in Guardiola’s final season in charge, but then the Catalan made substitutions which changed the course of the match.

The quarter-final draw will be made on Friday and Guardiola has the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and future employers City as potential last-eight opponents.

[sportsmo.com]


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