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8 Aug, 2020 13:17

Champions League: Lyon condemn Maurizio Sarri to Juventus axe as Manchester City outwit Real Madrid to make quarter-finals (VIDEO)

Champions League: Lyon condemn Maurizio Sarri to Juventus axe as Manchester City outwit Real Madrid to make quarter-finals (VIDEO)

There will be no sixth Champions League title for Cristiano Ronaldo this season after Juventus were ousted at the round of 16 stage by Lyon, while Man City again beat Real Madrid 2-1 to reach next week's quarter-finals in Lisbon.

The long-awaited return of the Champions League became an excellent night for relative newcomers to the latter stages of Europe's most prestigious club competition.

Neither Lyon nor Manchester City have ever gone beyond the semi-finals, and the club that finished seventh in Lique 1, winning only 11 of their 28 league games while sneaking through to the round of 16 after finishing second in their group, looked to have a precarious 1-0 lead against a Juventus side, Cristiano Ronaldo and all, who were thought to have underperformed in the first leg at the Groupama Stadium in February.

What no-one seemed to mention was that the visitors had a captain in Netherlands striker Memphis Depay with a goal on each of his appearances in the Champions League this season, and a young playmaker in Houssem Aouar whose six assists made him the equal of Lionel Messi since the start of last season in terms of providing goals.

Also on rt.com Maurizio Sarri SACKED by Juventus after Italian side crashes out of UEFA Champions League

That partnership led to the first goal in Turin, when Aouar was somewhat dubiously adjudged to have been fouled, allowing Depay to delight in chipping an impudent Panenka penalty for the 12th-minute opener, stranding Wojciech Szczęsny as Juventus's poor defensive record continued.

Suddenly requiring three goals to save an underwhelming season, Juve toiled, relying on a dazzling run from Federico Bernardeschi that almost saw him walking the ball into the net from the byline and a typically fearsome Ronaldo free-kick that Anthony Lopes did brilliantly to second-guess, taking a crucial step to his right just as the effort was struck, allowing him to claw the ball away.

The match could have been far less interesting but for a decision from referee Felix Zwayer that was baffling where his earlier intervention had been poor, punishing Depay for handling a shot that had been hammered straight at him from close distance.

Ronaldo duly scored to give Juve more than a glimmer of hope at the break before almost dragging them back into the contest in the second half, scoring a thunderbolt from outside the penalty area on the hour that gave Lopes little chance of anything more than scorched fingers.

The trouble for the hosts, as it has been all season, was that they looked burdened by their reliance on Ronaldo, especially after the only striker likely to offer another source of inspiration, Paulo Dybala, hobbled off dejectedly almost as soon as he had been introduced.

Lyon might have expected more of an onslaught than they endured, but they still performed admirably to retain their composure and reach the quarter-finals.

Coach Rudy Garcia secured just his seventh win in 30 Champions League matches and was under no illusions about quite what an achievement it had been to hold out at one of the tournament favorites, while Lopes celebrated with justifiable exuberance at the final whistle.

There was little surprise when Juventus removed their hangdog coach, Maurizio Sarri, the following day, the coach having appeared to sign off on his sacking by claiming that he had expected his side to perform worse than they did on the night.

Sarri's predecessor, Max Allegri, departed at the end of last season because the club's hierarchy wanted to win in more lavish style domestically and have a comprehensive tilt at winning the Champions League.

Under Sarri, they ultimately won the league by a point after a wretched end to the season that included their first home defeat since 2018, as well as rarely looking like true contenders on the European stage.

City, meanwhile, will be wary of Lyon in the next round, having lost 2-1 to them in their opening group stage game at home last season.

That was the scoreline by which they beat Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium to secure their progress with a 4-2 aggregate win that looked comfortable once it became clear that Pep Guardiola and his players had been carefully studying Madrid's defensive paucity under pressure.

Happily for Guardiola, City are determined and dangerous pressers, and out-of-sorts defender Raphael Varane showed his discomfort with the approach by gifting possession to Gabriel Jesus deep inside his own territory, allowing the striker to square for a simple finish by England forward Raheem Sterling to put them ahead after nine minutes.

As with Juve, that gave the Liga champions a mountain to climb early on, and although top scorer Karim Benzema replied after 28 minutes, there was never much doubt that City would hold on to the late advantage that Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne had given them at the Bernabeu.

Unusually for Madrid – and with a little help from Barcelona's travails – they finish a campaign with league rather than European glory to look back on, having previously won the Champions League four times since 2012, compared to just a single Liga title before their triumph this season.

Zinedine Zidane has finally been knocked out of the competition as a coach and will not be winning it for the fourth time himself, and City will fancy their chances of reaching the final four for the first time since 2016, albeit against their dangerous French opponents.

If you could ever describe one of the richest clubs in the world as underdogs, City certainly looked like they had a point to prove in their first fixture since their ban from competing was overturned, and fatalists have long joked that nothing has made Guardiola's side more likely to win the trophy than almost being banned from taking part at all.

Aouar, Depay and friends will have something to say about that, knowing that they might never have a better opportunity of their own in the one-legged semi-final next Saturday.

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