There was joy for Lionel Messi and anguish for Cristiano Ronaldo as Barcelona progressed to the semi-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Manchester United while Juventus were knocked out by Ajax.
Messi made sure there was no memorable Champions League comeback for Manchester United at Camp Nou on Tuesday, scoring two early goals to help Barcelona beat United 3-0 and reach the last-four for the first time in four seasons with a 4-0 aggregate score.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, shook his head as he walked off the field, while the Ajax players and staff celebrated with their fans long after the final whistle following a 2-1 win in Turin that sealed the Dutch side’s first semi-final appearance since 1997.
It is also the first time since 2010 that Ronaldo has failed to reach the last-four, having won the competition the last three years in a row with Spanish side Real Madrid.
United had arrived at Camp Nou hoping to take inspiration from its Champions League final victory 20 years ago, when current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer capped a comeback against Bayern Munich by scoring the winner in injury time.
|Manchester United were unable to score in either legs of their quarter-final against Barcelona [Carl Recine/Reuters]|
But Messi showed that past glories mean very little when he is playing at his best.
His first goal was had plenty of the familiar Messi magic, as he ghosted past a defender and bent the ball just inside the upright.
The second was largely thanks to a blunder by David de Gea. Messi only managed a tame shot on goal but the Spanish goalkeeper let it slip underneath him and into the net.
The goals ended Messi’s bizarre scoring drought in Champions League quarter-finals that had reached 12 matches dating back to 2013.
“Messi and Cristiano [Ronaldo] have been the best players in the world for the past decade,” said Solskjaer.
“And he showed why we think that and why he has won so many titles. If you give him space and timing around the goal he will create chances and score.”
In Turin, meanwhile, Donny van de Beek cancelled out Ronaldo’s opener before Matthijs de Ligt took the winner to let the Dutch visitors advance 3-2 overall.
“He’s [Ronaldo] disappointed as we all are, but we can’t be dragged down by this disappointment,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“Cristiano increased our chances of winning the Champions League but football isn’t math,” Allegri added. “It’s not one plus one equals two, but one plus one can equal three, four, zero.”