CLOCKWISE: Barcelona’s Andreas Christensen (third L) heads to score past Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during their Champions League quarter-final first leg at the the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde (front) vies for the ball with Josko Gvardiol of Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard (R) celebrates after scoring against Bayern Munich at the Arsenal Stadium in London. Atletico Madrid’s Samuel Lino (L) shoots to score past Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel at the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.—AFP
CLOCKWISE: Barcelona’s Andreas Christensen (third L) heads to score past Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during their Champions League quarter-final first leg at the the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde (front) vies for the ball with Josko Gvardiol of Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard (R) celebrates after scoring against Bayern Munich at the Arsenal Stadium in London. Atletico Madrid’s Samuel Lino (L) shoots to score past Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel at the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.—AFP

LONDON: The Champions League came back with a bang with 18 goals across the first legs of the four quarter- finals, a figure that’s only been surpassed once.

There were 19 goals in the four first-leg encounters of the 1956-57 European Cup and while this season’s tally is the joint-most along with 2010-11, the ties remain in the balance ahead of next week’s second legs even though Barcelona and Atletico Madrid prevailed in the opening salvos.

Birthday boy Andreas Christensen fired the winner shortly after coming on as Barca claimed a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory at Paris St Germain on Wednesday.

If Barca prevail they could face an all-Spanish semi-final after Atletico Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the day’s other game.

On Tuesday, record winners Real Madrid and title holders Manchester City played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in a game lit up by stunning strikes, and there was also no winner in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich.

The matches took place amid beefed up security after an Islamic State terror threat via a media outlet linked to the group.

Barca are appearing in the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 2020 and coach Xavi Hernandez hailed his side’s win away to PSG, insisting it showed the Catalans could once again compete with the very best teams in Europe.

“We had time to prepare for this game and everything turned out very well, in defence and in attack. We are proud of the team. Paris played very well, but we kept their threat to a minimum,” Xavi said after Christensen’s 77th-minute header gave Barca the victory at the Parc des Princes.

Raphinha had given the visitors the lead in the 37th minute against a shaky PSG defence, only for the hosts to turn the game on its head with goals by Ousmane Dem­bele, against his former club, and Vitinha in the first six minutes after the restart.

However, Raphinha volleyed in a Pedri pass to equalise before Christensen’s winner.

Barca play the second leg at home and will like their chances to get a first semi-final berth since 2019, while PSG’s bid to finally win the elite event may end prematurely again.

“The players believe in themselves,” said Xavi as he looked ahead to next Tuesday’s return at Montjuic. “They have this opportunity, and if they play in the same way they will get chances. Nothing is done but we can be proud. This match shows that Barca are very much alive.”

It was a disappointing night for PSG, with Kylian Mbappe for once failing to deliver on a big occasion.

He scored a hat-trick on the French club’s last visit to Barca in the competition in 2021, though, and their coach Luis Enrique, who won the treble with Barcelona in 2015, is optimistic that they can still progress.

“We are going to go to Barcelona to fight a war,” he said. “I never see the opposition as favourites, whoever they are. In top-level competition, that’s how I see it. And I will continue to believe that we will go to Barcelona to win the game.

“I repeat. We could have won this game. [Football] is about small details and let’s hope that the small details go our way in the second leg.”

Meanwhile, Atletico made the most of Dortmund’s defensive mistakes to score from Rodrigo de Paul in the fourth minute and Samuel Lino in the 32nd.

But substitute Sebastian Haller kept the Germans in the tie by netting in the 82nd minute. Dortmund hit the woodwork twice in the final stages as Atletico clung on for victory.

“There were moments when we could have scored a third but the truth is that we suffered a lot in the second half. Now we need to go there [for the return in Dortmund next Tuesday] and hopefully we can win,” Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann said.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who recorded his 50th win in the Champions League as a coach, agreed with Griezmann about the second leg.

“We’ll go to their stadium knowing that we’re going to find a strong team, a team with a lot of people who are going to take it to us, to attack. We will have to suffer and take advantage of the spaces,” said the Argentine.

“Seeing these first elimination ties, in the four [quarter-final] matches, it’s not easy to win, so we’re happy to have won.”

INCREDIBLE GAME

A day earlier, Phil Foden won the battle between two of England’s brightest stars against Jude Bellingham to give City the upper hand after a thrilling first leg against Real at the Santiago Bernabeu.

After falling behind to a Bernardo Silva free-kick in the second minute, Real fought back to lead 2-1 at halftime following a Ruben Dias own goal and Rodrygo strike and then built enough momentum to extend their advantage.

But Ancelotti’s side were wasteful and missed several chances, leaving City to take a 3-2 lead with Foden’s smash into the top corner and a sumptuous rocket from Josko Gvardiol in the second half.

Despite Bellingham’s hot streak in front of goal having cooled off, Real managed to salvage a draw thanks to a brilliant volley by Federico Valverde.

It was another epic encounter as the teams faced each other in a Champions League knockout tie for the third year running, igniting a new and exciting rivalry between the 14-times European champions and the Premier League powerhouse.

Real eliminated City in the 2022 semi-finals but Pep Guardiola’s side gained revenge a year later at the same stage.

The winners of the tie ended up lifting the trophy both seasons — with City crowned European champions for the first time — and the holders will aim to become the first team to knock 14-times champions Real out of Europe’s elite club competition in successive seasons since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.

“In Manchester it will be sold out, our fans will help us score one goal, and we will try to do the rest,” said Guardiola. “It’s simple, the team who wins will be in the semi-final.”

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was confident his team can shine against City next week.

“We had the grit to get back into the game, now we have a small disadvantage because we play away from home, but with the confidence that we can repeat this performance,” Ancelotti told reporters.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal ensured their quarter-final against Bayern remained finely balanced thanks to Leandro Trossard’s late equaliser at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal’s old tormentor-in-chief Harry Kane had ignored a hostile reception from Gunners fans to mark his return to north London with the ice-cool penalty that put Bayern 2-1 up in the first half.

Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Ka­ne’s sixth career goal at the Emirates came after ex-Arsenal winger Serge Gna­bry cancelled out Bukayo Saka’s early opener for the Gunners and he said he felt his side had taken a step in the right direction.

Bayern, who have not gone beyond the quarter-finals since winning a sixth title in 2020, will be slight favourites for next Wedn­esday’s second leg when they will be roared on by their fans who were absent in north London as punishment for fireworks being let off in the previous round against Lazio.

The pressure will be on Thomas Tuchel’s team, however, as Europe is their only chance of redemption in a season that will soon see them dethroned as German champions by Bayer Leverkusen.

“You saw a real determined team today,” said Kane. “We had to show togetherness and show fight. Today was a small step in the right direction.”

In contrast to Bayern’s vast experience at this stage of the competition, Arsenal are in the last eight for the first time in 14 years.

But Arteta retains belief his side can shock the hosts at the Allianz Arena in eight days’ time.

“Look at the players they have, the experience they have, you get punished, but that’s part of football,” he said. “I have a lot of belief we can go there and beat them. We have to prepare really well.”

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s unease
Updated 24 May, 2024

IMF’s unease

It is clear that the next phase of economic stabilisation will be very tough for most of the population.
Belated recognition
24 May, 2024

Belated recognition

WITH Wednesday’s announcement by three European states that they intend to recognise Palestine as a state later...
App for GBV survivors
24 May, 2024

App for GBV survivors

GENDER-based violence is caught between two worlds: one sees it as a crime, the other as ‘convention’. The ...
Energy inflation
Updated 23 May, 2024

Energy inflation

The widening gap between the haves and have-nots is already tearing apart Pakistan’s social fabric.
Culture of violence
23 May, 2024

Culture of violence

WHILE political differences are part of the democratic process, there can be no justification for such disagreements...
Flooding threats
23 May, 2024

Flooding threats

WITH temperatures in GB and KP forecasted to be four to six degrees higher than normal this week, the threat of...