by Senji Torrey
Due to increasing rates of COVID-19, many European countries are now on lockdown; even the world’s most popular sport, soccer, has been infected by this despicable virus.
Although not a single spectator has attended the recent club matches, the performances by competing teams in the UEFA Champions League have been nothing short of spectacular. In the Round of 16, each team is paired up with another team. They play each other two times — once at each team’s home stadium. This system serves to prevent any team from being deadlocked after both games are played, due to “home-field advantage.”
Though all of the 16 teams had strong performances, a few matchups stuck out. Atlético Madrid beat the 2019 Champions League winner Liverpool by a score of 1-0. Spanish national Saúl Ñíguez didn’t waste any time to score his goal, which he put in four minutes into the match.
A day later, Atalanta and Valencia played each other. Many analysts were excited to see the results of this particular match, given that these two teams were the definitive underdogs of this year’s tournament. Atalanta proved to be the stronger side, and by the end of the match, the score stood at 4-1.
On Feb. 26, Italian powerhouse Juventus faced off against the dynamic Lyon of France. Though Juventus had Lyon beat with its sheer number of top-tier players, Lyon’s Lucas Tousart was able to sneak a goal past Juventus’ defense in the middle of the first half. All three of these matches would set the stage for a very tension-filled second leg.
In the second leg of the tournament, Liverpool was unable to react to Atlético’s unexpected come back that took place towards the end of the game. After Liverpool scored two goals with only six minutes left in the match, Atlético manager Diego Simeone decided to put in Marcos Llorente, who scored a goal in the 97th minute, thus forcing the game into a controversial overtime. This 30-minute overtime allowed Llorente and Álvaro Morata to score one each, moving the team to the next round.
After the match, Simeone was a very blunt critic of the ruling that gave his team the advantage.
“Today was unjust because we had 30 minutes of extra time to score three away goals. Liverpool never had that. We had 30 more minutes to score an away goal and Liverpool didn’t. That’s not fair” he stated. He went on to add: “The rule favored us today but it might go against us in the future.”
Atalanta remained superior to Valencia, putting in another four goals. However, Valencia did make a valiant effort to come back from such a deep deficit. Kevin Gamiero scored Valencia’s first goal in the 21st minute, tying the game as a result.
In the 51st minute, Gamiero scored another goal that would tie the game for the second time. Ferran Torres then put Valencia up by one after chipping Atalanta’s goalkeeper in the 67th minute. Atalanta’s Josip Iličić was able to score four minutes after Torres’ goal. He would later put Valencia to bed when he scored a late goal to put his team up 8-4 on aggregate.
The entire country of Italy shut down all sporting events due to increasing rates of the coronavirus, which disabled Juventus from playing Lyon at their home stadium. Shortly after the Italian shutdown, the UEFA board also decided to postpone three other games to combat the further spread of the virus.
As stated earlier, Italy has shut down all soccer games for the time being. This has not only affected the Champions League but, perhaps more obviously, Italy’s own Serie A. On Feb. 29, all Serie A matches were postponed indefinitely. However, Serie A isn’t the only soccer league being terminated; Spain’s La Liga, the English Premier League, and France’s Ligue 1 are just a few other leagues that have stopped playing games.
The prospect of these clubs’ seasons being cut short is decimated by the financial losses, as well as the potential threat this decision poses to the national economy as a whole.
In the world of soccer, COVID-19 may have been able to infect and affect the number of games we will see in the near future, but worry not, for soccer, fútbol, football, or however else you say it, will live to see many more seasons.
(Sources: Liverpool Echo, TUDN, B/R Football, UEFA.com)