No Barcelona comeback as Juventus reaches Champions semis

Juventus players celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg football match FC Barcelona vs. Juventus at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2017
0

No Barcelona comeback as Juventus reaches Champions semis

BARCELONA, Spain: Juventus made sure there were no more miracles at Camp Nou on Wednesday, as the Italian visitors held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw and advanced to the Champions League semifinals.
The second-leg stalemate sealed a 3-0 win on aggregate and came six weeks after Barcelona's historic 6-1 thrashing of Paris Saint-Germain, when the home side became the first team to ever overturn a 4-0 loss in the competition.
Juventus showed all the poise and experience that PSG had sorely lacked in the previous round.
"Juventus is a great team and they were better than us," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said. "It was a difficult result to turn around, although we tried until the end. They are an Italian club and defend very well. I wish them the best and I think they can win the title."
True to the Italian tradition of defending an advantage, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had little work to do until late in the game, as Massimiliano Allegri's side expertly absorbed Barcelona's high-paced passing attack that ultimately produced few good scoring opportunities.
And when Lionel Messi did get free inside the area, Barcelona's all-time leading scorer squandered both his chances to spark a fightback.
The only miracle seen in Barcelona this time was Juventus not getting a late goal with the Spanish side barely having legs to recover on defense.
Juventus joins Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Monaco in the semifinal draw on Friday.
The result ended Barcelona's run of 15 wins in as many home European matches since the arrival of coach Luis Enrique, who will leave the club this summer.
Barcelona must rest and regroup for Sunday's trip to play Real Madrid in a "clasico" match that will go a long way to deciding the Spanish league title.
Monaco reached the final four after beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1 on Wednesday for a 6-3 aggregate win.
Even with Barcelona in full-attack mode, the same Juventus starting 11 from the first leg masterfully managed the match, bending but never breaking under the assault.
Messi had a great chance to boost Barcelona's chances in the 19th minute when a long buildup ended with Luis Suarez setting him up near the penalty spot, only for Messi to fire wide.
Barcelona continued to penetrate the right side of Juventus' defense, where Neymar and Andres Iniesta started to cause Dani Alves and Juan Cuadrado problems. Neymar volleyed Jordi Alba's pass wide before Messi drew the first save from Buffon just past the half-hour mark.
Juventus, however, tightened its defense, anchored by Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, and the hosts' opportunities dried up.
Messi' frustrating first half had a painful ending when he was caught by Miralem Pjanic while jumping for a ball. Messi tumbled face first into the turf, and showed a small scratch that bled on his cheek once he got back on his feet. Neymar was then booked for an apparent retaliatory charge into Pjanic, earning him a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
The second half started with Barcelona taking more risks and leaving its backline exposed for counterattacks.
The push led to three efforts from Messi that went close, while Cuadrado had two attempts going the other way, the second requiring goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to paw his shot past his upright in the 54th.
Messi wasted another opportunity in the 67th when Suarez found him in the box after Buffon left his line and failed to clear the ball.
Iniesta finally gave Buffon a real challenge with 10 minutes remaining, when his glancing effort of a cross made the veteran goalkeeper get low to save.
Juventus will be without midfielder Sami Khedira for the first leg of the semifinals for accumulated bookings after he earned a yellow for fouling Suarez.
The two-time European champions are set to complete an excellent campaign. They lead the Italian league and have line up an Italian Cup final against Lazio.


Virgil van Dijk sets sights on an awesome foursome of trophies for Liverpool

Updated 20 September 2018
0

Virgil van Dijk sets sights on an awesome foursome of trophies for Liverpool

LIVERPOOL: Virgil van Dijk wants to create history with Liverpool this season as he set his sights on an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.
The Anfield outfit are full of confidence after recording six successive wins at the start of a season for the first time since 1961.
Having reached the Champions League final in the previous campaign, they opened up this one with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Paris Saint-Germain thanks to an injury-time strike from Roberto Firmino after the French champions had pulled back a two-goal deficit.
While pundits have suggested Liverpool should prioritize the Premier League, van Dijk said they have the belief to do even better.
“Everyone is excited, feeling good, wanted to be part of this,” he said. “We know the season is very long, four competitions to play and we want to win everything. That’s basically our mindset. You need to have ambitions.
“With the size of this club, the people around here and with the history, we want to try to win everything. It’s going to be hard, we know it’s something very difficult to do, but we are going to try. That’s what we are here for.
“I’ve enjoyed every bit since I arrived here and hope to keep going. I want to win things, create memories here and write history as well with all of these boys.”
The Dutch defender also feels rivals will see Liverpool as contenders for the big prizes having overcome Neymar and Co.
“We were not in the [Champions League] final last season for no reason,” he added. “I think we should have already got the respect, but this season is new.
“Everyone starts over and we need to show it in every game. We need to keep going, keep improving, but also enjoy it. It’s the highest stage.
“If you are going to be on the pitch and you don’t believe it [that you can beat teams like this] then you need to stay home. You need to believe in your team. I have the belief. I’m enjoying it. You want to play in these games, you want to play these clubs. I think it’s a great time to be a Liverpool player.
“If you look at the team, the whole squad, players who are not even in there and have so much potential, so much quality, it says a lot about our team.”