Ernesto Valverde wouldn’t have minded a second goal, or several more, but the Blaugranas set up for a 1-0 win at Old Trafford and got exactly that.
Manchester United – Relieved.
Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s team was also punchless on offense, but certainly not inoffensive with its punch in a physical match, and they’ll also be relieved that the OGS era of Red Devils football did not involve a blowout home loss to his best opponent yet.
Anyone who watched Wednesday’s first leg in Amsterdam and not just the highlight of Ronaldo’s headed goal will know that Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, and Ajax’s 18-7 shot advantage was not misleading: Ajax should be leading, not level at 1-1.
Juventus – Tired.
The Old Lady was stout at the back, but produced its goal via its lone shot on target. Turin will be a different beast, or Cristiano Ronaldo’s dreams of a UCL four-peat are dead.
Moussa Marega gave Virgil Van Dijk everything he could handle, even winning the battle, but Alisson Becker’s saves made and Liverpool’s clinical finishing likely mean the end for Porto despite both teams producing the same amount of chances at Anfield.
Liverpool – Gleeful.
Liverpool knows how much better it is than it’s been over the past few weeks, and to escape Tuesday’s so-so display with a 2-0 lead is like putting a quarter in the cosmetic jewelry dispenser and seeing a blue diamond spit into your palm (and the confidence that comes from making the journey to the final last season really begins to pay off now).
After the loss to Man City at Wembley on a substandard pitch, Spurs knew they could beat City and will be pleased to have done just that without conceding an away goal; Score at the Etihad and watch City open up wider.
Manchester City – Bemused.
The City players will be looking at their wizard of a manager and wondering why he didn’t trust the team that got them there, keeping Kevin De Bruyne amongst several on the bench, and will also be perplexed that those changes so drastically affected what’s otherwise been a controlling side.
It looked as though Ronaldo had tweaked his hamstring, which is an extremely tough injury to recover from quickly.
Speaking after the game briefly to Portuguese media, here’s what Ronaldo had to say.
“I’m not worried, I know my body. I should be back in one or two weeks,” Ronaldo said.
Even though they sit pretty atop the Serie A table with a 15-point lead with 10 games to go, Juventus play against Ajax in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Apr. 10.
That doesn’t give Ronaldo that much time to recover for the first leg in Amsterdam.
Despite Juve being the favorites to advance past the Dutch giants, not having Ronaldo (their top goalscorer) available for the first leg would certainly be a problem for Max Allegri’s men. And even then, the second leg in Turin takes place just six days later so this is far from ideal.
His heroic hat trick in the last 16 second leg win against Atletico Madrid got them to the last eight, and the main reason Juventus signed Ronaldo was so they could finally win the UCL trophy again after a 23-year wait.
That all hinges on Ronaldo’s fitness, and the likes of Dybala and Mandzukic stepping up in his absence.
France showed on Friday that it hasn’t lost its mojo, as it tore apart Moldova on the road, 4-1, in its Euro 2020 qualifying opener.
Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe all scored in the win for France, which jumps well ahead in the Group H standings. For Giroud, it tied him for third in all-time scoring for Les Bleus.
34 – With 34 goals, Olivier Giroud has become the 3rd joint-top goalscorers in France national team’s history (level with David Trezeguet). Podium. pic.twitter.com/M2Ko3HHAcY
Elsewhere, Portugal suffered a surprising result in a scoreless draw with Ukraine. The defending European champions failed to score, despite starting Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo up top. It’s the third straight time that Portugal has started off a qualification campaign without a win.