Luke Shaw unwittingly helped Luis Suarez’s header into the net to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Manchester United on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
The goal – initially flagged for offside before being awarded via a video review – came in the 12th minute during an exhilarating spell when Barcelona’s possession exceeded 80 per cent at Old Trafford.
But as Barcelona became sloppy and error-strewn, the early passing rhythm faded.
So while the Spanish champions ended a six-game winless run on the road in European knockout games stretching back to 2016, this quarter-final is very much still in play heading into the second leg on Tuesday.
United only fleetingly imposed itself on the visitors, but did so physically in the first half when defender Chris Smalling’s right arm caught Lionel Messi’s face.
Smalling went unpunished but Messi’s nose was bleeding and he had to briefly go off to receive treatment.
The closest the five-time world player of the year came to his first goal at Old Trafford was in the 83rd minute when the sting was taken out of a low free kick and it was easily gathered by David de Gea.
The United goalkeeper also denied Philippe Coutinho a chance to double Barcelona’s lead in the first half when his left leg kept out the shot.
De Gea was also equal to Jordi Alba’s strike in the second half to limit the damage. United already came back from a heavier first-leg deficit to reach this stage, losing 2-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 before winning 3-1 in the French capital last month.
In that first leg against PSG, United managed only one shot on target. Against Barcelona, the three-time European champions couldn’t even hit the target once – the first time that has happened for them in the Champions League since 2005.
Juventus 1, Ajax 1
Ajax wasn’t rattled by a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo at the stroke of halftime, equalizing immediately after the break to secure a 1-1 draw against Juventus in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Showing increasing confidence after eliminating three-time defending champion Real Madrid in the last 16, Ajax produced more chances early on but then let Ronaldo waltz through its defence to head in a cross in the 45th minute.
Ronaldo was returning from a two-week injury layoff.
In the opening minute of the second half, David Neres capitalized on an error by Juventus winger Jose Cancelo – who provided the cross for Ronaldo’s goal – and curled a shot into the far top corner. Juventus nearly won it when Douglas Costa hit the post in the 85th.
The second leg is scheduled for Tuesday in Turin, with the winner to face Manchester City or Tottenham in the semi-finals.
The match was marred by fan clashes ahead of the game. Police in Amsterdam said they fired a water cannon at football fans “to put out flares and prevent unsafe situations.”
Local broadcaster AT5 showed images of scores of chanting fans being hosed by the water cannon and responding by tossing fireworks and flares at police before mounted officers charged at them followed by riot police.
Earlier, police in the Dutch capital said they had detained dozens of Italians suspected of possessing flares, a knife, pepper spray and fireworks.
It was a rematch of the 1996 final won by Juventus in a penalty shootout.