Three of the four Champions League quarter-final first-leg ties resulted in away victories with only Barcelona failing to take an advantage back to their home ground. Read Madrid achieved the most comfortable victory and have virtually booked their semi-final place after beating APOEL Nicosia 3-0. The Cypriots had put out Lyon, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk to reach this stage of the competition but they found Real Madrid in a different league. Two goals from Benzema and one from Kaka have given Jose Mourinho’s side an unassailable lead.
Real’s likely opponents are Bayern Munich who won 2-0 in Marseille. A mistake by the French side’s third choice goalkeeper Andrade gifted an opening goal to Mario Gomez just before half time. It was an 11th Champions League goal for Gomez this season. Arjen Robben added a second midway through the second period to leave the French facing elimination unless they can produce a near-perfect performance in the return leg.
Barcelona are hot favourites to retain their crown but they still have work to do to confirm their place in the semi-finals. They were held to a 0-0 draw by AC Milan, which was the first time they have failed to score in 30 Champions League matches. Messi came closest to scoring when a close range effort was rightly ruled offside. Milan squandered a couple of decent opportunities themselves but are still in with a chance having managed to stop the Spaniards from getting the vital away goal.
Should Barcelona prevail, it looks very likely that they will face old rivals Chelsea in the semi-finals. A goal by the previously out-of-favour Salomon Kalou was enough to beat Benfica and they will be full of confidence with home advantage. Benfica are by no means out of the tie but they must perform a lot better if they are to upset the Blues at Stamford Bridge. These sides have met three times in the closing stages of the Champions League and each tie has ended in controversial fashion. The last time they met, Chelsea held the Champions to a 0-0 draw in Barcelona and held a 1-0 lead until the dying moments of the return leg before conceding a late goal. Stormy scenes followed as the Chelsea players vented their anger at the referee for several controversial decisions. Chelsea’s domestic form has been sporadic but they seem to have found a new lease of life under temporary coach Roberto Di Matteo and could be the surprise team of the competition.
The competition looks set to produce two fierce semi-final ties with Real Madrid against Bayern Munich and Chelsea facing Barcelona. Benfica and AC Milan will still fancy their chances but the odds strongly favour the home sides.
Champions League Quarter-final first-leg results:
Benfica 0 Chelsea 1
AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0
Marseille 0 Bayern Munich 2
APOEL Nicosia 0 Real Madrid 3