Recapping the UEFA champions league round of 16

Jose Tovar

More stories from Jose Tovar


Kylian Mbappe scores a last-minute goal past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on Feb. 15 in Paris, France.

The UEFA Champions League knockout stage is one of the most highly anticipated events in the year for soccer fans, at WJ the buzz begins in February with the round of 16 games. After two great weeks of games, students are surprised with some performances and excited for the next games.

The first leg of games featured a total of eight matchups between some of Europe’s best. Some games are naturally hyped up more than others, especially when featuring star players and teams.

One of the most anticipated encounters was the 2/15 game between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. The focus was mainly placed on Kylian Mbappe from the start of the game. With his huge ties to Real Madrid and his probable transfer in June, it was interesting to see how he would perform against his potential future team.

The game featured two crucial moments in the second half of play, the first being Lionel Messi’s penalty miss with 30 minutes left and the second being Mbappe’s game-winning goal with under a minute to go.

“I think that Kylian Mbappe’s performance against Real Madrid was class, it was amazing to see him play with all of his skill and to see him score was outstanding, especially in the last minute,” freshman Kasper Taraska said.

The second leg which featured a remarkable comeback from Real Madrid was highlighted by Karim Benzema’s 17-minute hat-trick.

“That was crazy, Benzema and Vinicius are so good, they stretched the field so well and played great,” soccer teacher Gladwin Worden said.

On the other side of the inevitable goat debate between Messi and Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo. Manchester United and Ronaldo faced off against the Spanish champions, Atletico Madrid.

The match, which was played in Madrid, started off with an early goal from young Portuguese star, Joao Felix. Madrid’s quick start and good play throughout the first half prompted many surprised reactions from fans watching the game.

“It was very exciting, especially the ones that were down to the last minute,” freshman Luke Park said.

The matchup was portrayed by the media as one that Manchester United was favored to win and that Atletico would be outplayed.

Heading into the return leg in England, Manchester United was favored to win behind what was expected to be a great performance from Ronaldo. However, Atletico Madrid iconically won a hard-fought match 1-0 with a goal by left midfielder Renan Lodi and an array of saves from goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Ronaldo was for only the third time in his 183 games was held to no shots on target. The defensive persistence of Atletico Madrid was enough to hold off until the end of the match to pass on to the next round.

Apart from star players attracting attention, one of the biggest favorites to win the tournament turned heads after tying against a supposedly inferior opponent. Bayern Munich had seemingly gotten an easier draw against Austrian team RB Salzburg and as one of the best teams in the world, they were expected to make quick work of their opponent.

The final result was unexpected as Munich barely managed to salvage a draw in the dying moments of the game. The biggest shock was Munich being outplayed and losing until the very end. They did, however, recover the game in the second leg and will continue in the quarter-finals.

Italian giant Juventus began their round of 16 journeys with a draw away against the Spanish side Villareal. An early goal by January signing Dusan Vlahovic was all they mustered as they were outplayed the rest of the way to end at one all.

The return leg in Turin was expected to be a dominant performance by the Italians yet they shocked the world with a 3-0 loss in an extraordinary fashion. A team spoiled by money and success over the years is now at risk of having a trophyless season for the first time in many years.