The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League quarterfinals kicked off on Tuesday, and the action in both first leg matches — two more on the other side of the bracket are scheduled for Wednesday — didn’t disappoint.
Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s games:
Manchester City takes huge lead back to Munich
The marquee clash of the last eight, between Manchester City and Bayern Munich, could easily have been the final. If the actual finale in late May is anywhere as entertaining as this one was, neutral fans are in for a treat.
Played in England in a torrential downpour, it was a pulsating, back-and-forth affair early on. Both teams had their chances. Only the hosts capitalized on them. And once Manchester City took the lead on Rodri’s curling, left-footed strike past Bayern keeper Yann Sommer in the 27th minute, City never looked back on the way to a decisive 3-0 victory.
In truth, the score line could have been even more one-sided. Erling Haaland, who came into the contest having scored a whopping 10 goals in his last three outings, squandered a golden first half opportunity before icing the match — and likely the series — by notching the hosts’ third late in the second. (Bernardo Silva had doubled the lead for Pep Guardiola’s team minutes earlier.)
Sommer made six saves in all to keep Bayern’s slim hopes of advancing alive, and just about all of them were top drawer. None was better than his first-half stop on Sky Blues captain İlkay Gündoğan.
Still, it will take a monumental comeback next Wednesday in Germany for Bayern to any chance of overcome this deficit. Psychologically, it will be close to impossible to recover against a City team that looks like it has its best chance yet of finally winning the competition, even with a potential date with holders Real Madrid looming in the semifinals.
In Portugal, Inter Milan all but ends Benfica’s run
Despite having the lowest profile of the four quarterfinal matchups, Tuesday’s other game was no slouch. Just like City-Bayern, it was close in the first half, with both teams heading to the dressing rooms tied at the break.
It was all Inter after that. Nicolò Barella opened the Italians’ account in the 51st minute by heading home a gorgeous cross from Alessandro Bastoni, and Romelu Lukaku completed the scoring when he made it 2-0 from the penalty spot inside the final 10 minutes:
As impressive as Benfica has been in the Champions League this season, the Portuguese club will be hard-pressed to climb out of that hole next week in Milan. If they can’t, an all-Italian semifinal awaits next month.
At least one of Wednesday’s games could be closer
Another decisive win could be in the cards on Wednesday. Playing at home, Real Madrid is an overwhelming favorite (-149, according to FOXBet.com) against a Chelsea side that hasn’t won in more than a month, sits 11th in the 20-team Prem and is on its third coach of the season.
The other contest holds significantly more intrigue. Napoli is all but certain to claim its first Serie A title since 1990, when Diego Maradona was the club’s headliner. That doesn’t mean that beating AC Milan over two legs will be easy, not after it was announced Tuesday that star striker Victor Osimhen won’t be available because of the adductor injury he sustained last month.
That’s unfortunate. But if it increases the chances that both teams will still have everything to play for when the second leg begins week, most neutral fans probably won’t mind.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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