The first pair of UEFA Champions League 1/8-finals fixtures have concluded, with Atalanta and Red Bull Leipzig solidifying themselves as the first two squads to earn a ticket for the next stage of the tournament and get themselves one step closer to the eternal glory that comes with winning the Champions League.
Atalanta vs Valencia
A heavily anticipated fixture between Valencia vs Atalanta took place on Tuesday, March 10 at Estadio de Mestalla in Spain, where Albert Celades’s men were chasing a three-goal deficit they produced in the first leg.
First fixture between these two sides was arguably one of the most exciting matches of the UCL so far, not so much because of the quality of the teams, but rather due to the high tempo of the match, which resulted in a total of five goals and their return leg did not disappoint in that regard either.
The fixture took off at 21:00 CET and only three minutes later, Atalanta already scored their first goal with the help of Ilicic who converted the penalty kick and got his side in a four-goal aggregate lead. Despite being four goals down, however, Valencia did not give in just yet and responded with a goal of their own in the 21st minute, following a disastrous mistake of Atalanta defenders, which left Gamiero alone in front of the goal.
The hosts continued putting up the pressure, but to no avail, as they failed to add another goal to their name in the first half. Instead, it was Atalanta who scored their second in 43rd minute, again via a penalty kick, thus increased their aggregate lead back to four goals ahead of the half time.
Six minutes into the second half, Gamiero scored his second with a spectacular header courtesy of a great pass from Torres, who scored a goal of his own in 67th minute, thus got Valencia in a 3-2 lead and reduced the aggregate score to 4-6. Despite their best efforts, Valencia suffered another goal at the feet of Ilicic who sunk Los Ches’ ship in 71st minute. The Slovenian striker, however, was not done yet, as he scored his fourth in 82nd minute to put the final nail in Valencia’s coffin.
With another phenomenal performance, Atalanta secured their spot in the quarter-finals with an 8-4 aggregate score, proving once more, they are the superior team in this bout.
Red Bull Leipzig vs Tottenham
While not as exciting match as Valencia versus Atalanta in terms of goals scored, the RB Leipzig versus Tottenham fixture was one for the books, as it was the Austrian outfit which established their dominance over last year’s UCL runners-up Tottenham Hotspur.
The first leg between Leipzig and Tottenham ended with a surprise 1-0 win for the Austrians, who were set to repeat their success in front of the home crowd at Red Bull Arena, and they did not disappoint. Nagelsmann’s men got off to a strong start and penetrated Spurs’ defence 10th minute when Sabitzer scored his first goal of the game. Being two goals down on aggregate score ushered Tottenham to open up and push for a goal of their own, however, that backfired badly as they conceded their second in 21st minute, and found themselves in a 0-3 hole. Tottenham kept on pushing but without Kane and Son, all their attempts ended up failing, as they produced only four goal attempts and one shot on goal throughout the first half.
The second half was not much more fruitful for Tottenham, who failed to find their way to Leipzig’s goal. Three goal attempts and two shots on goal were all Spurs mustered up and it goes without saying, they failed to overcome the three-goal deficit. Despite their efforts, it was not Spurs who scored, but Forsberg, who added the third goal for Leipzig in the 87th minute to seal the deal and sent his team into the next stage.
To say Tottenham put up a disappointing performance would be an understatement, and while they were, in fact, missing a nice chunk of their core players due to injuries, it would be fair to expect Mourinho’s men to perform a bit better against the likes of RB Leipzig.
With the first round of UEFA Champions League 1/8-finals fixtures behind us, we got introduced to Atalanta and Red Bull Leipzig as the first two teams who will compete in the quarter-finals of the prestigious tournament. Although seeing Atalanta advance is nothing shocking, considering their how strong the team looked like throughout this season, it’s Red Bull Leipzig who surprised everyone with their commanding 4-0 win over Tottenham.
Leipzig and Atalanta are now waiting for the results of the remaining fixtures, and later the draw which will pair them with one of the six remaining teams which will enter the quarter-finals of 2020 UEFA Champions League.
Sports journalist, content writer and passionate football lover.