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Messi marches on, Ronaldo bows out: Reaction to UCL drama as Barca through, Juve out

Messi marches on, Ronaldo bows out: Reaction to UCL drama as Barca through, Juve out
There were contrasting fortunes for generational greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the UEFA Champions League as the Argentine guided his Barcelona team into the semi-finals while Ronaldo’s Juventus crashed out.

Football is, of course, very much a team game, but Messi and Ronaldo have bestrode the sport to such an extent in the past decade that much of the Champions League focus had been on the pair setting up a potential final showdown in Madrid on June 1.

That seemed a distinct possibility when Barca and Juve were kept apart during the quarter-final and semi-final draws, although any hopes fans had of the pair meeting in Madrid have now ended.

Messi kept his end of the bargain, producing a masterclass as he scored a brace before being involved in Philippe Coutinho’s sublime third as Barcelona swept past Manchester United 3-0 at the Nou Camp to win their quarter-final tie 4-0 on aggregate.

Also on rt.com Messi masterclass: Lionel Messi fires brace as Barcelona reach Champions League semis

It was smooth passage into the last four, where they will meet either Liverpool or Porto, as Barca seek a first Champions League title since 2015.

Messi is a man on a mission for a fifth Champions League title in total – which would put him level with Ronaldo.

It looked as if Portuguese star Ronaldo had put his Juve team similarly on course for the semi-finals when he powered in a header to open the scoring against Ajax in Turin, which was his 25th goal at this stage of the competition and 126th in total in the Champions League.

But a fearless Ajax side had clearly not ready the script, hitting back with goals through Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt.

Also on rt.com Ajax dump Juventus and Ronaldo out of Champions League as Dutch giantkillers do it again

The impressive young Ajax team duly held their nerve to dump Juve out 3-2 on aggregate, meaning Ronaldo’s personal grip on the Champions League trophy after winning it for the past three seasons with Real Madrid will also come to an end.

Incredibly, it will also be the first time in nine years that the Champions League last four is played out without Ronaldo present.

Juve's defeat also meant that Ronaldo had lost a first Champions League quarter-final at the 11th time of asking.

For some, there was a lament to the potential blockbuster showdown between the two all-time greats Messi and Ronaldo in the final.

But others - particularly the Messi fanbase - saw it as evidence that this year was clearly playing out in the Argentine's favor in the seemingly never-ending GOAT debate between the pair.

Beyond the personal rivalry, however, some paid tribute to what was yet another masterful performance from Dutch giantkillers Ajax, who claimed another big scalp after dumping out Real Madrid in the last round. 

Both Barcelona and Ajax will learn their semi-final opponents when Liverpool and Porto, and Manchester City and Tottenham conclude their quarter-final ties on Wednesday.   

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