Memphis shows no signs of rust
Memphis Depay had spent the past seven months recovering from a cruciate ligament injury sustained back in December of last year – in some ways lockdown came at the right time for Lyon’s captain – yet to watch this game you wouldn’t have guessed he’d been on the injury table for most of 2020.
His penalty was ludicrously cool, dinking home as Wojciech Szczesny dived enthusiastically out of the way. The penalty he conceded 20 minutes later – when Miralem Pjanic’s free-kick slammed against his arm – did cancel out his own strike, but it seemed a little harsh.
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Strangely it has been a fine season for Depay in spite of the fact he has spent the majority of it injured. His tally of 18 goals from 24 appearances so far is impressive, so much so that he has been linked with a return to the Premier League, with Arsenal said to be among those clubs interested. Yet now he’s fit and firing once more, you sense Lyon will be reluctant to let their talisman go.
VAR avoids making a call
Two penalties in the first half were dispatched superbly, but should they have been awarded at all? Rodrigo Bentancur’s slide tackle clearly won the ball, while Depay’s handball blocking Miralem Pjanic seemed innocuous.
Interestingly, the referee didn’t go to his pitch-side monitor for either decision, instead trusting his VAR official who backed the on-field call. Going pitch-side was a major and often dramatic element of last season’s knockout phase, with Manchester United’s win over PSG the most famous example when a penalty was gifted to Marcus Rashford, which he scored emphatically. While that moment proved controversial, the same level of intervention would have been most welcome in Turin.
Ronaldo’s Champions League romance will go on
It may not have been enough this time, but Ronaldo produced another supreme individual performance to add to his collection in the knockout rounds of this competition. His penalty was confidently dispatched and his second was simply brilliant, shifting the ball on to his left foot quickly enough just to open a fraction of space to shoot, before letting fly with a hammer into the top corner.
He will be 36 the next time the Champions League’s round of 16 comes about, but you can be sure he will still be one of the last players any defender wants to come up against.
What now for Sarri?
It seems bizarre that a manager who only weeks ago clinched the Serie A title could be under pressure, but that is the life of a head coach at Juventus, a club with vast expectations which aren’t always bedded in the realms of reality.
So yes, Sarri is at risk. Before the game he dismissed the idea that this game would make or break his future, but he must know that the pressure mounting on him from above and in the press could see the axe wielded before the new season begins.
His tension showed when he was booked late in the game for aggressive gesticulations from the touchline, while his decision to throw on Paulo Dybala proved desperate and saw the forward limp off minutes later. If this was the end of Sarri at Juve, it was an ignominious way to go.
City will be heavy favourites
While Lyon were clinging on in Turin, Manchester City were seeing off Real Madrid to reach the quarter-finals. Lyon are a good side but they only finished 7th this season in Ligue 1 and City will be the heavy favourites in their one-off quarter-final tie. This was a great night for Pep Guardiola’s men in more ways than one.
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