UCL: Liverpool, PSG expel Leipzig, Barca

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Half of the Champions League quarterfinal field is set after Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain made first-leg leads stick Wednesday to join Borussia Dortmund and Porto in the final eight.

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Barcelona and RB Leipzig will find their second legs wasteful, as Lionel Messi scored but his saved penalty was one of many non-clinical acts in the final third and Leipzig just couldn’t find their way past the Liverpool backline.

Four more ties will be decided next week when Man City-Gladbach, Real Madrid-Atalanta, Bayern-Lazio, and Chelsea-Atletico Madrid take center stage.

Liverpool 2-0 (4-0 agg) RB Leipzig

Liverpool has had trouble scoring this season, but tasked with defending a lead was not a problem on Wednesday against RB Leipzig.

The Reds got goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, assisted by Diogo Jota and Divock Origi, respectively.

The tournament-experienced Reds defended fairly well considering their center back pairing was Ozan Kabak and Nat Williams, not Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip.

There was shaky moments from the team as well as keeper Alisson Becker, but Liverpool looked like a side prepared to defend and advance en route to doing just that.

The Reds got their first goal in the 70th minute when Jota dribbled toward the left of the box and cut the ball back for Salah to slot inside the near post.

Watch Salah start the play for his goal, then accelerate the moment he believes he may wind up with a sniff of goal. Julian Nagelsmann will not like the pair of lapses from left back Lukas Klostermann that allowed Salah a couple of yards space.

It was Salah’s 31st Champions League goal and both the Egyptian and his teammates will be forgiven for focusing on a competition its club values more than any other.

Liverpool lost and won a final in the previous three tournaments and no one will want to draw the Reds (Man City seems destined to) with just three wins separating them from glory.

As for Leipzig, it can hope that its newfound freedom to focus on the Bundesliga will be a benefit given Bayern Munich’s status as one of the UCL’s tournament favorites.

USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams went the distance for Leipzig in the loss.

Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 (5-2 agg) Barcelona

Lionel Messi scored a wondergoal but missed a penalty as a dominant Barcelona flubbed plenty of chances to create a proper tie out of a 4-1 first leg disadvantage.

A lunging Messi couldn’t get to a Ousmane Dembele pass in the 24th, then popped an overhead kick to the keeper.

PSG was the first on the board via a Kylian Mbappe penalty, but Messi leveled the leg with a remarkable strike from 25 yards.

However, he’ll remember this night more for the penalty he had saved by Navas just before halftime. Messi struck a low, hard shot to the right of Navas, but the keeper dove into its path to save the effort.

USMNT back Sergino Dest pasted a ball off the bar from a tight-angle in the 23rd minute. He was busy and clean with the ball but ultimately watched his team depart the tournament.

Saved penalty aside, Messi’s goal was sensational.