February 23, 2017 3:23:34 pm
It was on September 14 when Colombian star striker Radamel Falcao first stepped onto Old Trafford pitch as a Manchester United player. The thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd promised a bright future for the former Atletico Madrid striker. But over the course of the year, Falcao’s disastrous show for the Red Devils saw him on the sidelines. In 29 appearances, Falcao only scored only four goals. Soon after, he went on loan to Chelsea, but suffered a nasty knee injury, just two months later. It was clear El Tigre’s time in England was over.
On his return to Manchester for the Champion’s League tie at Etihad against Manchester City, it was a different Falcao the world had seen in last two years – more energetic, confident, smiling, signing T-shirts for Manchester United fans and back in his prime form. 22 goals in 26 games for Monaco in the 2016-17 season was just the right confidence booster that he needed to get back into the thick of things.
On the field of play, Falcao looked unstoppable. He often outpaced City’s back four. On a day, when Monaco needed the Colombian to step up, he did not disappoint. Unlike his time under Louis Van Gaal for Manchester Untied, he did not look erratic and was often seen smirking and smiling when missing out on chances. It came as a little surprise when he scored the equaliser for Monaco in the 32nd minute, as they were trailing after a Raheem Sterling goal. In the 61st minute, Falcao scored his second with a chip – a thing of beauty; a reminder for everyone in England, what a star he could have been.
But the luck did not favour Monaco’s side in the second half. In the 48th minute, Nicolas Otamendi gifted a penalty to the French club. It was Falcao’s moment to put his team ahead in the game. But the striker squashed the chance with a terrible spot kick that was saved by City goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Soon after, Monaco’s goalkeeper Daniel Subasic’s terrible stint ahead of the goal-post saw Sergio Aguero scoring and open his account in Champions League knockouts.
Best of Express Premium
With 20 minutes to go, the Argentine scored yet again from a well-controlled volley. It was yet again an example of terrible defending from Monaco, who completely left the striker open during a set piece. Subasic’s another error late in the game provided a chance to Leroy Sane to score the fifth goal for Manchester City and the English side won the encounter by 5-3. Aguero’s classic display, poor defending and bad luck took away Falcao’s chance to steal the show in England.
Pep Guardiola agreed luck played a factor in the game. “If we do not score in Monaco, we will go out… Today, we didn’t give up, we were there. We were in some moments lucky, especially in the second half,” Pep Guardiola said at the post-match press conference.
Atletico Madrid outplay Bayer Leverkuson in another high-scoring game
Over 1000 kms away at Bay Arena in Germany, it was yet another high-scoring encounter between Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkuson as the Spanish giants defeated the home side 4-2. In spite of the scoreline suggesting otherwise, there wasn’t much for Leverkusen in the game, who were hoping to continue their unbeaten streak at home in the Champions League.
Atletico strikers displayed a strong performance with Antoine Greizmann, Saul Nigel, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres, all finding their names on the goal sheet. The defensive line, continues to be a worry for Atleti, as it lacks the same vigour provided by Diego Godin and Juanfran, who both are suffering from injuries. Savic’s own goal showed that the Rojiblancos badly need their top defenders back if they wish to go further in the competition. The return of injured goalkeeper Jan Oblak, even though on the bench, seemed like a good sign for the team.
Amid the Buffon-Casillas hype, a red card and substitutes steal the show in Portugal
When Nuno Santo’s Porto was drawn against Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus, fans were more excited to see another encounter between two legends in goal for both clubs – Iker Casillas at Porto and Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal. In the first leg, in Porto, the flavour of the game turned sour with another element making headlines. Alex Telles picked up two yellow cards in a span of two minutes, and the Brazilian was sent off in less than half an hour.
The dismissal saw Porto dropping deep and the game becoming a cagey affair. Casillas and Buffon were hardly left to do anything in the first half as Porto barely attacked, while Bianconeri’s forwards barely made it past Porto’s defensive line.
Just when it looked like the match was headed for a draw, an inspiring round of substitution from Allegri gave a double lead to the Old Lady within two minutes. Juan Cuadrado’s replacement Marko Pjaca in 67th minute saw the winger toe poking it past Casillas in the 72nd minute, while Dani Alves, who came off the bench in the 73rd minute, scored in the very next minute to give Juventus two key away goals.
Leicester City’s domestic issues reach Europe
Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel produced a brilliant game at Sanchez Pizjuan. The son of former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, saved an early Joaquin Correa’s penalty and then went on to pull some fantastic saves. The English goalkeeper’s efforts along with Jamie Vardy’s classic finish in the 73rd minute, gave the Foxes hope they might be able to save themselves in the European tournament. But, it won’t be easy in the second leg when Sevilla travel to the King Power Stadium in two weeks time with a 2-1 lead to their name.
After being knocked out of FA cup by Milwall, and finding no salvation in Premiere League, Leicester badly needed a win to keep themselves relevant. But yet another defeat for the league champions are troubling signs who are just not able to find the right footing on the field this year. They need to make things happen for them and the first step on that way is to find the back of the net – something they have only managed to do five times in 2017 until Wednesday night.
🗞 Subscribe Now: Get Express Premium to access our in-depth reporting, explainers and opinions 🗞️
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.