Man City beat Copenhagen to reach UCL quarters, Real Madrid draws with Leizpig

Thursday March 07 2024

Manchester City's centreback Manuel Akanji (L) scores their first goal against FC Copenhagen during their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, UK on March 6, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


 Holders Manchester City cruised into the Champions League quarterfinals for the seventh consecutive season with a 3-1 victory over FC Copenhagen on Wednesday in their last-16 second leg that wrapped up a 6-2 aggregate triumph.

City, who started the game with a two-goal cushion, took care of business early with first-half goals by Manuel Akanji, Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland.

With a trip to Liverpool in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash to come on Sunday, manager Pep Guardiola had the luxury of resting key players including Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, making seven changes to his side that beat Manchester United 3-1 in last Sunday's league derby.

"Today, I need energy, fresh legs," Guardiola said. "I know how tired, exhausted some of my players were today ... We play on Sunday. So, I need fresh legs."

Read: UCL: Porto stuns Arsenal in late winner, Napoli draws with Barca

City are a point behind Liverpool and a point ahead of Arsenal after 27 league games in tight title race. They are also in the thick of the FA Cup, with a quarter-final against Newcastle United on March 16.


"To be part of the titles, we need everyone," Guardiola said. "For one more year we are in the best eight teams in Europe. Incredibly happy we are still in all competitions."

Akanji scored with City's first chance, volleying in Alvarez's corner in the fifth minute.

"I saw the ball coming. It was perfect for my foot," Akanji told TNT. "I was really happy about it. It was our aim to score early. The first two goals in the first half made it easier for us. We tried to do our best and did what we had to do."

Alvarez scored his own four minutes later, thanks to calamitous goalkeeping by Kamil Grabara, who let the City forward's shot slip through his hands seconds after Rodri pinged an effort off the crossbar.

Former Southampton player Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back for the Danish champions in the 29th minute but City's goal-scoring machine Haaland slotted home a low, hard shot through two defenders seconds before halftime, his 29th goal of the season across all competitions.

'A team that believes'

Rico Lewis had a late chance for a fourth City goal, but his shot hit the bar.

City joined Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain in the quarters, with the final four teams to be determined next week.

Read: Man City thumps Copenhagen in UCL as Real beats Leizpig

"We are a team that believes we can do it," Guardiola said. "Listen, we're competing with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. We don't know who we are going to face. It's a question of wait and see. The important thing is seven years in a row we are here."

City will find out their quarter-final opponents in the draw on March 15.

"We feel good right now," Akanji said. "We're confident going into the next round. We are one of the favourites but have to prove it."

Haaland was taken off late in the game, wrapping 18-year-old substitute Jacob Wright, who made his Champions League debut, in a hug as he left the pitch.

Copenhagen boss Jacob Neestrup believes City can retain their Champions League title.

"They're going to win it, they are," he said. "This is just a level up -- in everything.

"We have played (City) two seasons in a row and Man City are getting better. They are top players, the structure they have is amazing. It is not just the technical and tactical. They work hard."

Real Madrid survive Leizpig scare

Real Madrid withstood an onslaught from RB Leipzig to secure a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie that sent them through to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 aggregate victory on Wednesday.

RB Leipzig were arguably the better side and missed several gilt-edged chances. But Real Madrid increased the tempo in the second half and ultimately did enough to seal their place in the last eight.

Read: Real Madrid, Bayern qualify for UCL last 16, Man Utd stunned


Real Madrid defenders Dani Carvajal (L) and Antonio Rudiger (R) in action with RB Leipzig's Benjamin Sesko (C) during their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain on March 6, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS

Bidding for a record-extending 15th Champions League title, Real took the lead thanks to a Vinicius Jr strike from a counterattack in the 65th minute.

But Leipzig's Willi Orban levelled the score three minutes later with a header to set up a tense final few minutes that included a strike that hit the crossbar by Dani Olmo.

Even though Real have a formidable record in Europe, having been knocked out in the round of 16 only twice in the past 14 years while winning the title five times during that period, Carlo Ancelotti's team began rather cagily.

Leipzig kept threatening to score, with Orban missing twice in the second half after shooting wide.

In the second half, Rodrygo replaced Eduardo Camavinga and suddenly Real were playing with more purpose.

Real appeared to have put the tie to bed when Toni Kroos stole the ball and fed Jude Bellingham at the halfway line, who took the ball up the Leipzig box.

He slipped a pass to Vinicius, who had cut in from the left into the centre circle before rifling a shot into the left-hand corner.

That goal only seemed to fire up Leipzig, who equalised within three minutes when Orban got in front of Nacho to score with a stooping header from a cross by David Raum.

In a final 20 minutes in which several yellow cards were handed out, Real were playing with fire and were under repeated pressure in their own box with goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who had already saved Real in the first leg, forced to make several crucial saves.

Leipzig almost took the game to extra time when Dani Olmo saw his shot ricochet off the bar in added time.

Ultimately, Real did just enough to qualify for yet another quarter final.

“Obviously we know it wasn´t the best game of the season," said Real’s captain Nacho.

"Sometimes you just have bad games and tonight was the case. It looks like a drama because of how we played but what really matters is we qualified for the quarters. Let that be a lesson for what´s to come.”