Real Madrid beaten in first leg of quarterfinal
Wolfsburg scores two first-half goals
PSG held 2-2 by Manchester City
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has penalty saved
At the Camp Nou it was the real deal – on Wednesday it was in real trouble.
Real Madrid, the most successful club in the history of the competition, suffered a hugely embarrassing 2-0 defeat at German side Wolfsburg in the first leg of its Champions League quarterfinal tie.
Wolfsburg, which hadn’t won a game since qualifying for the last eight, shocked its illustrious opponent with a high-octane performance full of heart, desire and no shortage of quality.
On Saturday, Real’s players grouped together in the Camp Nou locker room to celebrate with what has now become the almost obligatory team photograph. Fresh from defeating arch rival Barcelona and ending the 39-match unbeaten streak which has seemingly catapulted the Catalan club towards another La Liga title.
But, in a quarterfinal clash in which it was huge favorite not only to progress but to do so with ease, it came unstuck at the first hurdle.
“I’m not happy with how the game went – especially the first half,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane told the tournament’s website.
“That’s football, that’s how difficult it is. That’s what happens when you don’t play with intensity from the start.
“We have to rest and think about the return leg because we still have the chance to change everything.”
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The 10-time European champion was beaten by a Wolfsburg side which had never previously managed to qualify for the last eight of the competition.
First-half goals by Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold left Real with a difficult, although not impossible task, to qualify for the last four of the competition for the sixth consecutive season.
Zidane, who replaced Rafael Benitez in January, had led his side to six successive victories going into this game and yet he could only watch on from the sidelines as his plans fell apart.
And yet there was little sign of what was to follow in the opening stages of this contest. It required just two minutes for Cristiano Ronaldo to have the ball in the Wolfsburg net, though his effort was ruled out for offside after a wonderful one-two between Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos had allowed the Portuguese forward to move in on goal.
If that was a let-off then what followed two minutes later was equally fortunate for the home side as Real was denied a penalty after Gareth Bale appeared to be tripped by a rather clumsy looking challenge from Luiz Gustavo. Referee Gianluca Rocchi waved away the appeals of the visiting players much to their consternation.
Wolfsburg, playing its first Champions League quarterfinal, overcame Belgian side Gent in the previous round largely due to a wonderful performance in the first leg by exciting young winger Julian Draxler.
Draxler again provided the catalyst for his side in a fine first-half performance. The highly-coveted 22-year-old danced his way to the byline and crossed for Andre Schurrle, who was tripped inside the penalty by Casemiro.
This time the referee did point to the spot and Rodriguez stepped forward to fire past Keylor Navas – the first goal the Costa Rican had conceded in 738 minutes of Champions League action.
Real appeared rattled and fell further behind just seven minutes later.
Draxler once again started the move, switching the play to Bruno Henriques, and when his cross managed to pierce a seemingly non-existent Madrid defense, Arnold took full advantage and slotted him his side’s second.
Real had never before conceded two goals in the first 25 minutes of a Champions League knockout game – and yet against a Wolfsburg side, eighth in its own domestic division, it was in danger of being torn apart.
Real’s evening grew increasingly miserable when France forward Benzema, who had earlier wasted a fine chance with a header, was forced to limp off after sustaining an injury earlier in the half.
Wolfsburg continued to impress after the interval and Schurrle should have added a third, taking a pass by Henrique in his stride before unleashing a fierce effort which flew over the bar.
Real threatened when Ronaldo forced Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio into a sharp save, but rarely did it look like finding a way back into the contest.
Last weekend Wolfsburg lost 3-0 to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga with a display which German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung felt was so poor that “it could amount to a new Volkswagen scandal.”
Now it has an opportunity to dream of a place in the last four. And why not? It will know that Real has been knocked out in the last eight Champions League knockout rounds in which it lost in the first leg.
“This must not be the end for us,” Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking said before this contest – it just might not be.
City in pole position
In the night’s other game, Paris Saint-Germain was held to a 2-2 draw by Manchester City after an entertaining game in the French capital.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who could move to the English Premier League next season when his PSG deal expires, could have given the home side the perfect start in the opening stages but his penalty was brilliantly saved by Joe Hart.
That miss was to prove costly as City, so inconsistent for much of the campaign, moved in front courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne’s fine strike.
But the visiting team, whose defense has proved its undoing on so many occasions, soon gifted the home side a route back into the contest.
Fernando, the Brazilian midfielder, received the ball on the edge of his own penalty area but his lack of composure allowed Ibrahimovic to close him down with the ball ricocheting off the Swede’s boot and into the net past a stunned Hart.
It was a dreadful error by Fernando and his side’s misery was compounded when Adrien Rabiot bundled home PSG’s second just short of the hour mark.
City, playing in the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time, rode its luck with Ibrahimovic’s header striking the crossbar as PSG poured forward.
But with 18 minutes remaining, Fernandinho took advantage of some woeful defending by Serge Aurier and sent a rather meek effort into the far corner.
“The quarterfinal continues to be open,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini told BT Sport.
“We must now play 90 minutes in Manchester but this is a good result for us. We made a couple of important mistakes for the first goal and the second goal was offside.
“In the first half, if we want to win, we cannot make those kind of mistakes. But we are trying to win the game from the first minute, it is the way we play.”
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