Juventus player ratings as Rodrigo Bentancur scores an 8 while Cristiano Ronaldo gets a 7

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Juventus got a crucial away goal thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo‘s away goal in Amsterdam has given Juventus the edge in their Champions League quarter-final against Ajax after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

Juve were often under the cosh as Ajax put in a robust, thrilling display, but the veteran Italian side held on for a draw after Ronaldo’s header had given them the first-half lead.

Here’s a closer look at how the players performed.

STARTING XI

Wojciech Szczesny 7 – Made one excellent first-half save. Could do nothing for Ajax’s goal, and was assured otherwise.

Joao Cancelo 7 – Contributed to what has fast become a typical Juventus goal: Cancelo cross, Ronaldo scores. Good going forward as always, and dealt with Ajax’s attacking threat well.

Daniele Rugani 6 – Actually looked the more assured centre-back between himself and senior colleague Bonucci. Together, their experience helped keep Ajax at bay when Juve were under the cosh.

Leonardo Bonucci 6 – Bonucci is a great defender on his own right but nights like these show how much he relies on his partnership with Giorgio Chiellini. He was the weaker Juve centre-back on Wednesday, if only by a little.

Alex Sandro 7 – A quiet but solidly assured performance at left-back. Many of Ajax’s attacks came down his side, but none succeeded, and even the chances created were because the Dutch were overloading on Cancelo on the other flank.

Rodrigo Bentancur 8 – Juventus’ best player in midfield. The Uruguayan mopped up Ajax attacks and shielded his back four with determination, and was a threat going forward as well.

Miralem Pjanic 6 – Slightly below his best from the Bosnian, whose passing was occasionally sloppy. In the second half he struggled to keep Juve in control in midfield, though he did a good job of protecting his defence.

Blaise Matuidi 7 – Solid if unspectacular in midfield, as he carried out his box-to-box role with typical industry. Was a little unlucky to be the man subbed off when Massimiliano Allegri decided to make an attacking change.

Federico Bernardeschi 5 – It was his error that led to Ajax’s equaliser. Though he was full of energy, this wasn’t a good performance from the Italian – no player lost possession more times than Bernardeschi’s seven.

Cristiano Ronaldo 7 – Scored the crucial goal of the evening, giving Juventus their away goal, but as Ajax became more dominant he saw little of the ball, and tried too hard to pull off the extraordinary when he did get possession.

Mario Mandzukic 6 – Captain on the night in the absence of Chiellini, Mandzukic did his usual job of being a good support act for Ronaldo in attack. Though he was typically strong in the air, he had a strangely quiet game otherwise.

SUBSTITUTES

Douglas Costa 7 – A livewire in attack during an excellent cameo. Spoiled one good run by drifting in a poor cross, but ended another with a fierce shot that struck the post.

Paulo Dybala 6 – The Argentine will have been disappointed not to start – but his second-half cameo did little to convince Allegri he’d made the wrong call.

Sami Khedira N/A – Came on with barely any time left to have an impact on proceedings.

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Ernesto Valverde tactics give Barcelona advantage, but keep Man United in the tie

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An 12th-minute own goal from Luke Shaw condemned Manchester United to a 1-0 defeat against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Luis Suarez’s header across goal from Lionel Messi‘s cross took a deflection off Shaw and wound up in the far corner as the Catalans took the lead at Old Trafford.

Diogo Dalot missed a glorious opportunity in the first half, but United failed to create much else. Barca seemed content with their solitary away goal as well, settling for the narrow win.

Here, we analyse Ernesto Valverde’s tactical input.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 1

Shots – 6

Shots on target – 3

Possession – 64%

Dribbles – 7

Tackles – 9

Aerials won – 4

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Lack of pace

United were chasing the game for the last quarter of an hour and as the final whistle approached, they committed more numbers forward. They had even switched from three to four at the back and got men in the box to attack crosses.

Barcelona dealt with the aerial assault exceptionally, but when the opportunities to break quickly arrived, they weren’t equipped to punish United and perhaps even kill off the tie. Ousmane Dembele is on his way back from injury and was deemed unfit to start.

But he was on the bench so Valverde may have missed a trick by not introducing him for a cameo in the closing stages. Failing that, even Malcom would’ve added a bit of zip on the break.

GOT RIGHT

United were steadily growing in confidence, especially at the start of the second half. Valverde reacted by throwing Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto on for Philippe Coutinho and Arthur.

That brought a shift in formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.

Granted, they sacrificed a bit in attack but a compact midfield was able to contain United and on the ball, play it around them albeit with little penetration.

GOT WRONG

The suspicion with this Barcelona side is that they can be pretty ordinary in the absence of Messi. The Argentine was on the field on this occasion and played a part in his side’s goal but was otherwise largely anonymous.

With Messi not at his best, Valverde needed to help his side create different avenues to goal. He might’ve done so by calling on Carles Alena earlier in the game.

The midfielder is a fine dribbler and his ability to carry the ball into enemy territory would’ve asked more questions of a makeshift United back-line. Instead, the Barca boss played it safe and hoped Messi would conjure a moment of manage while focusing on negating United’s threat.

VERDICT

A win away from home is an excellent result, but Barca fans will feel Valverde could’ve encouraged his side to do even better. There are question marks over his substitutions as well which were rather safe.

That said, he left nothing to chance defensively and ensured his team left Old Trafford with the advantage.

Rating 7/10

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Man United 0-1 Barcelona: Talking points as host may rue result and visitors do just enough

Alam Khan 11/04/2019
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An unfortunate own goal from Luke Shaw handed Barcelona the advantage in their Champions League quarter-final with Manchester United.

The Spaniards did just enough to edge an Old Trafford encounter that failed to live up to its billing.

Lionel Messi was inevitably involved in the 12th-minute opener. A dinked cross to the back post found Luis Suarez, whose downward header hit Shaw on its way into the net.

Philippe Coutinho was denied a second by a superb block from David De Gea, who also saved well from Jordi Alba and Messi’s free kick.

United failed to have a shot on target, with Marcus Rashford sending efforts off target, and will face a tough test in next week’s return leg.

UNITED MAY RUE MISSED OPPORTUNITY

With Shaw deployed in a three-man central defence, it was a move by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that didn’t pay off despite the close result.

It might have helped provide additional defensive protection, but the bullish words of taking Barca on, to fight fire with fire, proved somewhat hollow.

As Messi and Coutinho often went deep and looked to counter, United, at times, had three defenders marking one forward, or five against three, when the visitors were there for the taking.

Through these unnecessary changes, United were also deprived of Shaw’s runs down the left where Diogo Dalot was stationed instead.

With his energy, the impressive Dalot would perhaps have been better suited to the right-back role where Ashley Young was often wasteful with crosses from promising situations.

Another clear area of concern was up front where Romelu Lukaku was too static at centre forward and had just 20 touches, one more than De Gea, which is appalling for a player of his calibre.

Anthony Martial should have been there at the start to provide support for Marcus Rashford and the pace and trickery that could have unnerved the Barca backline a bit more and maybe produced a shot on target.

Their only home goal in this competition this season has come from Marouane Fellaini and that says it all.

You just can’t afford to be so sloppy, nor scared, against a side of this quality and that’s what United were.

They needed to play to their strengths, to perform at their best to overcome Barca. Perhaps this is as much as they can give right now, but they might rue their tactics and a missed opportunity.

BARCA BELOW PAR

This was not the brilliant Barca that had been talked up as Champions League favourites. Far from it.

Confident in their approach, but uncomfortable when pressed and hurried into mistakes.

With Messi strangely muted apart from his assist for the opener – and still yet to score in a quarter final since 2013 – they were frustrating rather than fearsome.

A focus of this was in midfield where Sergio Busquets particularly came under pressure.

Twice he made desperate, and late challenges, to stop United attacks and was fortunate not to see red instead of getting one yellow.

He was exposed, targeted as a weak link, and it is no surprise that Barca have turned to Frenkie de Jong as successor to someone who has been a great servant, but not as good as he once was.

Yes, he plays simple passes, keeps things ticking, but Barca should be looking for more – and will need more if they are to lift the trophy again.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde chose to replace Arthur and Coutinho to bolster this area with Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto, but Busquets could easily have been sacrificed.

Better teams will take greater advantage.

HE’S SCOTT A LOT OF TALENT

With Nemanja Matic injured and Ander Herrera seemingly set for Paris Saint-Germain this summer, this was an opportunity for Scott McTominay and Fred to press their claims for starting spots.

And their performances will offer Solskjaer much to ponder about his transfer strategy for next season.

This is only McTominay’s second Champions League game this season. The first was the remarkable 3-1 win at PSG that got them to this stage.

He may not be a big name, but his ability belies his 22 years and lack of experience on this stage.

He showed confidence, courage and the commitment to curb the threat of world-renowned players in the opposition ranks.

Fred looks to be growing with every game, too. The Brazil midfielder lacked trust and opportunities under Jose Mourinho, but a fresh start under Solskjaer has allowed him to repay the faith and flourish.

With timely tackles to break up play and a positive approach to push forward, he could benefit most from the departure of Herrera and offers similar attributes.

One early pass almost released Rashford clear, but the forward failed to control the ball. There is room for improvement, but also hope for the future.

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