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A time for superlatives

Published: Thursday 8 April 2004, 21.00CET
"A refreshing wave" swept through the UEFA Champions League as the quarter-finals concluded.
Published: Thursday 8 April 2004, 21.00CET

A time for superlatives

"A refreshing wave" swept through the UEFA Champions League as the quarter-finals concluded.

It has been some week: AC Milan humiliated by RC Deportivo La Coruña, Real Madrid CF stripped bare by AS Monaco FC and Arsenal FC stunned at home by Chelsea FC. A "refreshing wave" is how French newspaper L'Equipe describes a semi-final lineup which also includes FC Porto, the only side remaining to have won the European Champion Clubs' Cup before. Here uefa.com reviews the press reaction to two memorable nights of football.

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (Agg: 2-3)

Arsenal's uneasiness was badly concealed last night. Ashley Cole, Freddie Ljungberg and José Antonio Reyes were all in the side and curiously it felt as if Arsène Wenger needed the recently injured trio to rally round in a crisis. That should not have been the case, after the advantage of an away goal in the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. However, the side were trying to recover from the defeat by [Manchester] United [FC], to ignore the insidious observation of Sir Alex Ferguson that he would not bet on them against Chelsea and to qualify for the first [UEFA] Champions League semi-final in Arsenal's history. It was all too much for them. (The Guardian)

Parliament ought to pass a law that makes it illegal to get rid of a football manager when he reaches the last four of the Champions League. It happened to David O'Leary a year after he had scaled those Himalayan heights with Leeds United [AFC] and it may yet happen to Claudio Ranieri if Chelsea's progress is halted by Monaco. As of today, though, the 'Tinkerman' is unsackable. Ranieri has taken the Little Russia of SW6 to the cusp of a Champions League final. No wonder he wept in his moment of triumph. (Daily Telegraph)

Monaco 3-1 Real Madrid (Agg: 5-5, Monaco win on away goals)

In these moments, football suddenly seems to become pure again and you run out of superlatives. The players themselves were surprised. They beat Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. This great Real Madrid, this team of Galácticos. 'The biggest team in the world,' they kept repeating, trying to convince themselves that this achievement was possible. They did it. They won a match which will be talked about for years to come, and in doing so wrote their name in legend. (L'Equipe)

Madrid's mysticism fell flat on its face on an unexpected stage - in Monaco's tiny stadium, which looked like it was made out of papier-mâché, and a place not entirely associated with football epics. But here Monaco won the game of their lives and did so with pure conviction against the most disappointing Madrid for years. They managed to undo their advantage from the Bernabéu and Raúl's opening goal here. And underneath it all was an element of theatre: Morientes was instrumental in Madrid's downfall, netting two astounding headers without finding any kind of opposition from his old team's defence. (El País)

Deportivo La Coruña 4-0 Milan (Agg: 5-4)

It does not cost anything to dream - that was this newspaper's headline yesterday morning. But to live through the events at the Riazor last night, you would pay any price. It was not a dream - it was much better than that. By the 44th minute, Depor had qualified for the semi-finals and they not only clung on to their advantage - they served up a 4-0 thumping to the almighty Milan. (El Correo Gallego)

While it was happening we could not believe it. Not even when the score was 3-0, enough to knock Milan out of the Champions League. We kept telling ourselves that sooner or later Milan would wake up. We were sure that Kaká or Shevchenko would steal a goal and that we would look back on this match as a huge fright. It was not like that at all. This unbeatable Milan, the side who never lose and always entertain, who always get out of trouble and were chasing a double of Scudetto and Champions League, were simply destroyed by Deportivo on a night that is already history. (Corriere dello Sport)

Olympique Lyonnais 2-2 Porto (Agg: 2-4)

On this evidence, Porto are truly worth their place in the last four. Lyon, for their part, did not really show they had the means to aim any higher right now. Their best efforts, notably in the first half, never seriously shook the UEFA Cup holders. (L'Equipe)

A semi-final in La Coruna, who would have thought it? This Portuguese team want to conquer Europe. After rubbishing the English arrogance of Manchester United [FC], the question arose: 'How far can the Dragons go?' Who knows? Having reached such a high level we must respect their ambition to climb to the top of the ladder, a summit reserved for European football's élite. (A Bola)

Last updated: 12/04/04 12.10CET

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