Champions League play-offs often result in intense dramaturgy. And this year again, the eliminated clubs have delivered a Dantesque scenario.
Syrota sips Dynamo Kyiv’s hopes
Benfica Lisbon – Kyiv Dynamo: (2-0, 3-0)
The situation was simple for the Ukrainians. After losing 2-0 in the first leg, the Dynamo went on to win by two goals at the Stade de la Luz. But half an hour into the game, Nicolás Otamendi blew up this plan. The Argentine defender opens the scoring with an angry header, and adds the Ukrainians to the biggest mess. Freed from all that is at stake, the Dynamo players can finally play without pressure.
For that, nothing better than lifting from the back. The defenders are under intense pressure, but more is needed to intimidate the Ukrainians. Especially Oleksandr Syrota. The center back receives a smooth pass from his teammate, nothing more frustrating when you’re in a hurry. Seeing the critical situation looming, Oleksandr thinks it’s the perfect time to spoil his pass as well. The Ukrainian defender sends a caviar to Rafa Silva who waits successfully in the penalty area. The Portuguese does not ask questions and plants the second goal. Obrigado Oleksandr.
In the following kick-off, Benfica punished Dynamo for the third time after a dazzling counterattack. 3-0 final score.
The trip to the Magomedaliyev tubebreaker
Victoria Plzen – Karabakh FC: (0-0, 2-1)
The runner-up of the Czech Republic against the champion of Azerbaijan. Not the sexiest matchup on paper. But on the grass, the 22 actors made us lie down in the most beautiful way. It is the visitors who are first shown in evidence shortly before the break. In an upper class sequence, Filip Ozobic finds the glasses of a helpless Jindrich Stanek. But let the goalkeeper calm down, his counterpart will be more decisive than him for Viktoria Plzen.
We played the 58th minute, and the Czechs took advantage of a free kick 50 meters from the goal, off center on the left side. Until then, there is no danger for Karabakh, we say. The free kick is stuck, but this one looks more like a huge sail. Enough to convince Azeri goalkeeper Shakhrudin Magomedaliyev (his wishes for him) to get out of his goal. And that’s when the masterpiece begins. Shakhrudin completely misses his start and the ball. And as always in these cases, the ball systematically returns to the feet of an opponent, article 1 paragraph 2 of the laws of football. Jan Kopic wraps a perfect ball in the empty goal: 1-1.
The Czechs then took the lead 20 minutes from time with a liberating goal from Jan Kliment, to qualify Viktoria Plzen. But make no mistake, Viktoria’s true hero did wear an Azeri jersey that night.
Borjan, from hero to zero
Belgrade Red Star – Maccabi Haifa : (2-3, 2-2)
In a heated Marakana, the Red Star Belgrade players literally suffocate the Israelis. And in the 27th minute, Aleksandar Pesic logically opened the scoring for the Serbs. Then in the 43rd minute, following a three-way school game, Mirko Ivanic finds Josh Cohen’s top corner. 2-0. With this goal, the Belgrade players are qualified. But if they think about going back to the locker room with this break, they greatly underestimate their ability to slip away. With a particular desire to do so at the end of each period.
With only one corner left to negotiate before half-time, Slavoljub Srnic catapults the ball into his own penalty area with his hand. A headline to make Earvin Ngapeth blush. While the 51,755 spectators await a feat from their goalkeeper and captain Milan Borjan, the latter offers them a layup. Milan dives into the right side and communes with his followers in a trance-like state.
The Serbs go on the counterattack, but immediately steal the ball from them. As the referee is about to call the break, Daniel Sundgren goes all out and shoots 30 meters from goal. This time, Borjan takes off his hero costume and puts on his sieve one. The shot is full axis, but it is enough for the goalkeeper to make a hole. Just fifteen seconds after his penalty saved. A sublime emotional lift.
Then we play the 90th minute and both teams prepare for extra time. The Israelis benefit from one last free kick. Located as the first stronghold, another Milan capsizes the game. Not Borjan this time, but Pavkov. The Serbian striker tries to clear the ball, but the guy takes it out at shinbone. He guesses the rest; a totally blown cover that becomes a rocket propelled towards its own targets, under the helpless and accusing gaze of his first name.
Red Star Belgrade achieved the feat of being eliminated in two categories of their own players. Respect.
#Champions #League #Playoffs #Evening #Eliminated #Clubs #FFL