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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

RB Leipzig, Atalanta claim first-ever UEFA Champions League last eight spots

As RB Leipzig demolished last season's finalists Tottenham Hotspur by 4-0 on aggregate to reach their first quarter-finals, Atalanta went through to last-16 too by completing an 8-4 aggregate victory over Valencia thanks to four-goal Josip Ilicic.

By: Reuters | Updated: March 11, 2020 10:17:58 am
RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates. (Source: Reuters)

RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer scored two early goals as they eased past last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in their last 16 second leg tie on Tuesday to reach their first quarter-finals by 4-0 on aggregate.

Sabitzer fired the lively German side in front with a low shot from about 20 metres after 10 minutes and they never looked back, pinning the visitors, who were without injured strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, in their own half.

Leipzig’s captain was then given far too much space in the 21st to head home Angelino’s cross at the near post after Serge Aurier’s poor clearance as the Spurs’ players heads started to drop.

Emil Forsberg completed the victory with a third goal from inside the box in the 87th as Leipzig, who only got promoted to the Bundesliga in 2016, reached their first quarter-final in Europe’s premier club competition.

“We did it better than in our recent Bundesliga matches,” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann told reporters. Leipzig had drawn their last domestic league two matches.

“The fans are moved. This is a very big deal for the club. We are now looking forward to the draw. A special moment.”

ILICIC MASTERCLASS GUIDES ATALANTA

Josip Ilicic has scored 16 goals in his last 12 appearances in all competitions. (Source: Reuters)

Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic scored four goals in a stunning individual display to lead them to a 4-3 Champions League last-16, second-leg win over Valencia, that completed an 8-4 aggregate victory, at an empty Mestalla on Tuesday.

The Spanish side’s stadium was shut to supporters as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, with the visitors coming from a high-risk zone in the north of Italy.

Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby conceded two penalties in the first half, both converted by Ilicic, either side of Kevin Gameiro’s equaliser.

Gameiro headed home a second and Ferran Torres put Valencia ahead on the night but Slovenian playmaker Ilicic completed his hat-trick and then curled in a sumptuous fourth as his team reached the quarter-finals.

STRUGGLING SPURS

Jose Mourinho last progressed from a UCL knock-out tie in April 2014. (Source: Reuters)

Injury-ravaged Tottenham, who were also missing winger Steven Bergwijn and full-back Ben Davies, struggled to keep up with Leipzig’s pace and were constantly exposed at the back while posing no threat up front.

Leipzig pounced on almost every sloppy pass and inaccurate clearance and could have added several more goals in a dominant first half with Timo Werner and Patrik Schick coming close.

Jose Mourinho’s team had to wait until the 43rd minute for their first corner and managed to carve out only half a chance in the second period with a Dele Alli effort in the 75th.

“It’s hard for us to score at the moment,” Mourinho said. “Our first couple of mistakes they score and then it’s very difficult. Their physicality is incredible, their defenders win the duels, they stop the game. They are very fast in attack. They can hurt us all of the time. They deserve to go through.”

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