Barcelona appoint Flick as new head coach

Hansi Flick has been appointed the new Barcelona head coach.

The former Bayern Munich and Germany boss has signed a two-year deal at the Nou Camp.

Flick replaces Xavi, who was sacked a month after Barcelona had persuaded him to stay on as manager, after he initially planned to leave at the end of this campaign. The 44-year-old took the Catalans to the Champions League quarter-finals where they lost to Paris Saint-Germain.

“FC Barcelona and Hansi Flick have reached an agreement for the German to become men’s first-team football coach until 30 June 2026,” a club statement read.

Flick was dismissed by Germany in September following a 4-1 friendly defeat to Japan on the back of a group-stage exit at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

He served as assistant coach to Joachim Low when his country won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, before clinching back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the 2020 Champions League during a two-season stay with Bayern.

Speaking in a video posted by Barca on X, Flick said: “First of all I would like to say thank you to everyone (involved). It’s a big honour and also a dream for me to sign my contract here in Barcelona, to work for this amazing club, and I’m happy to start.

“The club is unbelievable. The hours I’m here in Barcelona, it’s amazing because everyone here in the club loves this club and tries to give their best so they have success.

“The philosophy they have is similar to mine – ball possession and really attacking football, these are the things I love.

“I won some titles with Bayern Munich and my hunger is really big for titles. I would like to stay on this path with Barcelona and I think we can achieve a lot together.”

The 59-year-old succeeds a predecessor who was appointed in November 2021 to manage the club where he won 25 major trophies as a player.

Xavi steered the team from ninth place in LaLiga to the runners-up spot following the sacking of Ronald Koeman.

Xavi’s turbulent 2024 with Barcelona

  • January 27, 2024 – Xavi announces he will walk away from Barcelona, describing the role as “cruel and unpleasant”.
  • April 24, 2024 – Barcelona announce Xavi has reversed his decision and will take the team into next season.
  • May 24, 2024 – Xavi is sacked as Barcelona manager.

Barca were crowned champions in his first full season in charge, but they subsequently failed to mount a serious challenge this time round, surrendering their title to rivals Real Madrid.

Xavi: Next Barca boss will ‘suffer’

Xavi will leave his role as Barcelona head coach at the end of the season
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Departing Barca boss Xavi had a warning for his successor

Earlier this week, Xavi warned his successor to be prepared to “suffer” in the job.

“To the new manager, I tell you: You will suffer. This is a very complicated place to be,” Xavi said after his final match in charge, a 2-1 win over Sevilla.

“This is a difficult job and you have to be patient.”

Xavi does not have another job lined up and is prepared to wait for the right offer.

He said: “Nothing is closed. I’m a professional, let’s see what happens in the future. Of course I’m open (to a new job), but I think 100 per cent I need to rest a little bit.

“It’s so difficult to coach Barcelona. It’s been tough last week, but I have my conscience very clear. I’m proud and happy.

“When we got here we knew it was a difficult time for the club and I think we can be proud of the work we have done.”

When does the summer transfer window open and close?

The 2024 summer transfer window in the Premier League officially opens on Friday June 14 – the same day that Euro 2024 starts.

The window will close on August 30 at 11pm UK time.

The Premier League has brought forward Deadline Day to link up with the other major leagues in Europe. The closing dates were set following discussions with the leagues in England, Germany, Italy, Spain and France.

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Barcelona topple Lyon in Women’s Champions League final to seal quadruple

Barcelona retained the Women’s Champions League as goals from Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas secured a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Sonia Bompastor – who is expected to replace Emma Hayes as Chelsea manager – failed to clinch the send-off she had hoped for as Lyon, the record eight-time European champions, suffered defeat in a Champions League final for the first time in their history.

Barcelona took the lead on 63 minutes courtesy of Bonmati’s clever run and finish and, after substitute Ada Hegerberg missed a glorious chance to send the game into extra-time, Putellas sealed victory from close range in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

The result caps an unprecedented quadruple for Barcelona having already secured Liga F, the Copa de la Reina and the Spanish Super Cup.

Barcelona had met Lyon four times previously in the Women’s Champions League with the French side coming out on top each time.

Player ratings

Barcelona: Coll (7), Bronze (8), Paredes (7), Engen (6), Rolfo (7), Bonmati (7), Walsh (7), Guijarro (6), Hansen (8), Paralluelo (6), Caldentey (7).

Subs used: Pina (n/a), Putellas (n/a), Batlle (6), Brugts (6).

Lyon: Endler (7), Carpenter (6), Renard (5), Gilles (6), Bacha (6), Horan (7), Egurrola (6), van de Donk (5), Diani (7), Dumornay (6), Cascarino (5).

Subs used: Majri (6), Hegerberg (5), Becho (6).

Player of the match: Caroline Hansen.

Changing of the guard in European football?

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmati celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's Champions League final
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Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati celebrates opening the scoring

Big occasions call for big players. Lyon were crestfallen in a bouncing Bilbao as Barcelona celebrated their third Women’s Champions League. How fitting that it was goals from Bonmati and Putellas that secured this crown for a second straight season.

Is this the changing of the guard in Europe in women’s football? Lyon beat the Catalans in the final in 2019 and 2022, as well as winning both quarter-final legs in 2018, but they ran into a different beast this time.

Caroline Graham Hansen passes under pressure from Selma Bacha
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Caroline Graham Hansen under pressure from Selma Bacha

This could well be the moment when Barcelona – who ended Chelsea’s hopes in the last four – truly believe they can catch Lyon’s eight titles.

Bompastor’s side beat French rivals Paris Saint-Germain to reach the final, but they were flat for large spells, drowned out and outnumbered by their counterparts in northern Spain.

In front of a record crowd of 50,827, the victory adds to Barcelona’s recent dominance in the women’s game. They were playing in their fourth consecutive Women’s Champions League final, having won it last year and in 2021.

Mariona Caldentey fights for the ball with Wendie Renard
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Mariona Caldentey fights for the ball with Wendie Renard

The women’s triumph comes amid continued turmoil in the men’s team, and it is a success which comes swiftly on the heels of Spain’s national triumphs last year in the Women’s World Cup and the inaugural Women’s Nations League.

Barcelona survived an early scare when Lucy Bronze almost steered the ball into her own net in the 14th minute, but instead it struck the woodwork and bounced harmlessly away.

At the other end, Lyon’s Vanessa Gilles had to clear the ball off the line when a Mariona Caldentey shot that had been saved ricocheted goalwards and Caroline Graham Hansen also went close to scoring as the first half finished 0-0.

Barcelona goalkeeper Catalina Coll dives to divert a Lyon shot in the Women's Champions League final
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Catalina Coll dives to divert a Lyon shot off target

Barca gradually got more of a grip on the game and Bonmati, who won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Best Women’s Player award for 2023, broke the deadlock just after the hour-mark with a shot from a tight angle which deflected off Lyon’s Gilles past goalkeeper Christiane Endler.

Lyon sent on Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg but the competition’s record goalscorer, who has been troubled by injury for much of the season, was unable to find the net despite a couple of decent chances.

Instead, Putellas, who had been struggling with a persistent knee problem, came off the bench and netted a stoppage-time goal to seal Barcelona’s win.

Giraldez: One of best days of my life

Barcelona are only the fourth side to retain the title
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Barcelona are only the fourth side to retain the title

Barcelona boss Jonatan Giraldez told DAZN:

“It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it’s one of the best days of my life for sure.

“We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them. When I decided in December to leave the team at the end of the season, people criticised the decision that maybe the performance of the team is going down. We showed today the amazing performance we have and deserved the victory.”

On Alexia Putellas’ goal: “Everyone did an amazing job. Alexia only played five or six minutes but there are other players as well. This is a special moment for them.”

On if he will miss the Women’s Champions League when he moves to Washington Spirit: “It was the best thing that could happen today with me, my family, almost 40 people coming from Galicia. It is a special moment and I will enjoy it.”

Bronze: Putellas is the Queen of Barcelona

Barcelona's team captain Alexia Putellas lifts the trophy after winning the women's Champions League final soccer match between FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao, Spain, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Barcelona won 2-0. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
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Barcelona’s team captain Putellas lifts the trophy

Barcelona’s Lucy Bronze told DAZN:

“We knew that that’s what we needed, to be a club to make history. It’s not easy, it’s hard to win it once. To win it back to back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that. We go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe.”

Caroline Graham Hansen and Selma Bacha compete for the ball
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Caroline Graham Hansen and Selma Bacha compete

On Alexia Putellas: “She’s the captain of the team, she’s the Queen of Barcelona for a reason. She’s always so confident in the team and showed today why she is a back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner.

“She’s got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and just sealed the win for us. It was amazing.”

On the celebrations: “All of our family will be staying around. The hundreds of friends and family will be celebrating tonight. We’ve won it all so we’ve got a lot to celebrate.”

Van de Donk: Nobody likes to lose a final

Lyon suffered a maiden Champions League final loss
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Lyon suffered a maiden Champions League final loss

Lyon’s Danielle van de Donk told DAZN:

“I’m very emotional. Nobody likes to lose a final and we were here to win it. It’s a shame we didn’t create enough. Barcelona deserved the win but I’m proud of my team, we gave it our all.”

On her and Lindsey Horan’s reduced chances: “I play more as a 10 and Linsey as bit more as a six. We were a bit low in the midfield so couldn’t get the press right and that is usually our strength.

“Credit to Barcelona, they did amazing. I wish we could have pressed them a bit more, I think that could have made a difference.”

Putellas brings unbridled joy to Barcelona

Alexia Putellas came off the bench to seal the victory
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Alexia Putellas came off the bench to seal the victory

While Hayes had hoped to conclude her 12 years at Chelsea with victory in this final – the one trophy that eluded the new United States manager – before her move across the pond, nobody could begrudge Putellas putting the seal on Barcelona’s success.

Two years ago, she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and missed out on Euro 2022, but was part of the Spain squad that lifted the World Cup last summer, and four days ago signed a new deal that will keep the enormously popular player in the Catalonian capital for two more years.

It was a rousing ovation that greeted the 30-year-old when she stepped out onto the pitch in the third minute of stoppage time, a sound quickly upgraded to a roar when she found the back of the net three minutes later to cap off the victory.

Lyon will reflect on how they ought to have taken the lead when captain Wendie Renard could not put the finishing touch on Lindsey Horan’s clever flicked delivery after the restart.

But with England midfielder Keira Walsh and a particularly in-form Bronze pulling the strings, this maiden quadruple for the Catalans was richly deserved.

What’s next?

The 2023/24 season has reached its conclusion but planning has already started for the new campaign.

Several Premier League sides have confirmed pre-season friendlies ahead of the 2024/25 term, which kicks off on the weekend of August 17/18, while others have given fresh kits an early airing.

The domestic season starts the previous weekend and marks the launch of Sky Sports +, giving more choice to sports fans via live streams and a new dedicated channel, at no extra cost. In a broadcasting first, every game in the Championship, League One and League Two will be streamed live on the opening weekend of the 2024/25 EFL season.

Stand by for another busy summer in the transfer window – clubs can do business from June 14 until August 30 and the Sky Sports Transfer Centre will keep you posted with all the latest news and rumours.

Euro 2024 is just weeks away, too. Keep track of England’s Euro fixtures, check out the full tournament schedule in Germany and join us on skysports.com

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Barcelona sack head coach Xavi with Flick primed to replace him

Barcelona have sacked head coach Xavi after three years in the role, with former Bayern Munich and Germany boss Hansi Flick primed to replace him.

The 44-year-old Spaniard will take charge of Barcelona’s final game of the season against Sevilla on Sunday before leaving the club.

The decision to sack Xavi comes a month after Barcelona persuaded him to stay on as manager after he initially planned to leave at the end of this campaign.

Xavi’s turbulent 2024 with Barcelona

  • January 27, 2024 – Xavi announces he will walk away from Barcelona, describing the role as “cruel and unpleasant”.
  • April 24, 2024 – Barcelona announce Xavi has reversed his decision and will take the team into next season.
  • May 24, 2024 – Xavi is sacked as Barcelona manager

According to Sky in Germany, Barcelona have reached a verbal agreement with Flick to become coach. The Spanish club say they plan to make an announcement regarding Xavi’s replacement over the next few days.

A statement from the Catalan club read: “FC Barcelona wishes to thank Xavi for his work as coach, as well as for his inimitable career as a player and as team captain, and wishes him every future success in the world.”

Xavi will depart Barcelona with the club in second place in the table, but they go into Sunday’s final day of the season 12 points behind champions Real Madrid.

The Spaniard also took the Catalans to the Champions League quarter-finals but lost to Paris Saint-Germain.

Xavi will leave his role as Barcelona head coach at the end of the season
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Xavi will leave his role as Barcelona head coach after Sunday’s final game with Sevilla

Overall, Xavi won the LaLiga title in 2023 and also lifted the Spanish Super Cup a few months later.

Xavi: Never easy to leave the club of your life

In an open letter published on social media, Xavi admitted it was difficult to leave but insisted he was proud to help pave the way for the club’s future stars despite a tough campaign.

“It is never easy to leave the club of your life, but I am very proud after two and a half years at the head of a dressing room that has been like a second family,” Xavi wrote.

FILE - Barcelona's head coach Xavi Hernandez reacts during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Betis and Barcelona at Benito Villamarin stadium in Seville, Spain, Saturday, May 7, 2022. Xavi has missed his team's flight for a preseason tour of the United States because of problems with his passport, the Spanish club said Saturday, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Breton, File)

“From Sunday I will be another fan in the stands… Because before being a player or a coach I am a Barcelona fan and I only want the best for the club in my life, which will always have me at its disposal.

“This season things have not gone our way, but we have let it go and helped to grow a new generation of young footballers from La Masia who inspire all Barcelona fans… I wish the best for the club that I hold dear to my heart.”

Sevilla boss: How badly do Barcelona treat their legends?

Sevilla manager Quique Sanchez Flores, who will also be departing the club after Sunday’s game with Barcelona, criticised the Catalan club for having a “bad streak” with regards to keeping their legends at the club.

Flores referenced the way Lionel Messi and Ronald Koeman left Barcelona in recent years as other examples of how poorly Barcelona have treated their key figures.

“Xavi is a coach who has cared a lot about the club. He has experienced many things as a player and has done a good job as a coach,” the former Watford manager said.

“I’ll give him a huge hug, we’ll talk.

“I shouldn’t say this, but how badly Barcelona treats its legends. Koeman, Messi, with Xavi now… what a bad streak. I wish clubs would value their legends. That adds up.”

Which top European clubs have sacked their manager?

Barcelona are the latest top European club to sack their manager at the end of this season.

In the Premier League, Chelsea are looking for a new coach after sacking Mauricio Pochettino this week. There is also serious doubt over Erik ten Hag‘s future at Manchester United, who recorded their lowest-ever finish in England’s top-flight this term.

Brighton also parted ways with Roberto De Zerbi earlier this month despite the Italian guiding the club to its first ever European campaign this season.

Bayern Munich are another top club looking for a manager after informing Thomas Tuchel in January that he would not be kept on. Burnley manager Vincent Kompany is currently the German club’s preferred candidate.

AC Milan announced that manager Stefano Pioli will leave the club, with former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca the frontrunner to succeed him.

Juventus was also sacked Massimiliano Allegri last week after the Italian manager’s behaviour after the Coppa Italia win over Atalanta. He is set to be replaced by Thiago Motta, who will leave third-placed Bologna next week.

Ajax have also recplaced interim manager John van’t Schip with Nice manager Francesco Farioli, who has left the French club.

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Barcelona to request El Clasico replay if Yamal ‘goal’ error confirmed

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has called on the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to replay Sunday’s El Clasico encounter with Real Madrid if there is conclusive evidence that Lamine Yamal’s ‘phantom’ goal ought to have stood.

After Yamal’s strike was disallowed by VAR in Barcelona’s 3-2 defeat at Real Madrid, head coach Xavi Hernandez criticised the officiating in LaLiga, which does not use goal-line technology.

Yamal’s effort in the 28th minute was reviewed by VAR for several minutes, as it appeared to cross the line before Real keeper Andrey Lunin cleared it. The goal was disallowed and VAR awarded a corner to Barca.

Laporta’s statement on Monday opened: “As president of FC Barcelona, I would like to put across my dissatisfaction the day after the improper use of a tool such as VAR in one of the most important matches in the global schedule is marking our calendar.

Lamine Yamal was at the centre of a goal-line controversy
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Lamine Yamal was at the centre of a goal-line controversy

“As you well know, I have never been a great defender of VAR because I believe that, as it is applied, it takes away football’s spontaneity. But what I am in favour of is that, now that we have it, we always use to avoid errors that can lead to unfair decisions.”

Vinicius Jr and Lucas Vazquez’s goals helped Real equalise twice after Andreas Christensen and Fermin Lopez had put Barca ahead.

Barcelona's team players celebrate after Andreas Christensen, centre, scored the opening goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)
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Andreas Christensen gave Barcelona the lead the Bernabeu

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)
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Vinicius Junior equalised from the penalty spot

Jude Bellingham scored the decider in the 91st minute, securing Real’s fourth consecutive win over the Catalan side. Second-placed Barca trail by 11 points, a deficit that will be difficult to overturn with six games remaining.

Laporta continued: “In this appearance I am making, I am not only bringing together the unhappiness of Barca fans with the management of VAR yesterday [Sunday], but also, I am highlighting the fact that even though it is a tool that has been used for a while, it continues to create confusions with contradictory criteria according to matches and teams.

Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, second left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Lucas Vazquez hauled Madrid level for a second time

“Barcelona would also like to highlight the power of our competition and that we are successful and followed by millions of fans around the world, but we cannot be exempt from criticism when the use of VAR undermines our product.

Laporta’s lengthy statement added: “We understand the difficulty faced by officials, but it is for that reason that such tools exist (like VAR) which should help the competition be fairer and not the other way around. Yesterday, there were several debatable incidents but amongst all of them there is one that is crucial and can change the result of the game.

“I am referring to the ‘phantom goal’ by Lamine. As a club we want to be sure about what happened, and it is for that reason that from FCB we will make an immediate request to the Technical Refereeing Committee at the Spanish Football Federation for a comprehensive collection of footage and audio from the incident.

Real Madrid's goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, left, makes a save in front Barcelona's Ferran Torres during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Andrey Lunin, left, makes a save in front Ferran Torres

“If once this documentation has been analysed, the club understands that an error was made in the revision of the incident, we will take all available measure to reverse the situation, without discounting, obviously, any necessary legal action.

“If it is confirmed that it was a legal goal, we will move ahead and we do not discount requesting that the game be replayed, just as has happened in another game in Europe due to a VAR error. Finally, I would like to underline that despite our focus on this incident, we also disagree with various others that occurred during the game, and that could have been reviewed using VAR.”

The game Laporta refers to took place in January, when it was announced that a Belgian Pro League match between Anderlecht and Genk would be replayed in full due to a video assistant referee (VAR) error.

The country’s disciplinary council for professional football ruled in favour of a Genk appeal on the grounds of a misapplication of the laws of the game.

Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's third goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)
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Jude Bellingham celebrates his stoppage-time winner

Laporta hopes that decision, believed to be the first of its kind in European football, has set a precedent after an initial ruling by the refereeing body that there would be no replay was challenged on appeal by Genk, whose request for another game was upheld by the senior group.

LaLiga is the only top five league in Europe not to use goal-line technology. After Barcelona fans criticised LaLiga for lacking the tech, chief Javier Tebas responded on X by sharing several reports of past incidents where the technology was shown to be inaccurate saying, “no comment”.

Barcelona, who were knocked out of the Champions League last week, host Valencia in LaLiga on April 29.

Xavi told reporters, when asked about the controversial events at the Santiago Bernabeu: “We can’t control them. These are refereeing actions. I think the team is doing very well, we competed very well, we were better than Real on their own pitch and I think we deserved the three points in every way.

“My feeling today is one of maximum injustice. Goes without saying, everyone saw it,” he added. “My feeling is that today’s match was not fair.”

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Bellingham stuns Barca with last-gasp Clasico winner

Jude Bellingham struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Real Madrid inched closer to a record-extending 36th LaLiga crown with a stunning 3-2 comeback victory over title rivals Barcelona in El Clasico.

Real twice fought back from a goal down before Bellingham smashed in the winner at the far post to beat the champions for a fourth successive time.

The result sees Madrid establish a potentially crucial 11-point lead over over Barca at the top of LaLiga with just six games remaining.

Barcelona's team players celebrate after Andreas Christensen, centre, scored the opening goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)
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Andreas Christensen gave Barcelona the lead the Bernabeu

Barca took the lead in the sixth minute when Andreas Christensen headed in following a corner after Real goalkeeper Andriy Lunin failed to clear the cross from his six-yard-box.

Vinicius Jr equalised 12 minutes later from the penalty spot after Lucas Vazquez was fouled inside the box.

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)
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Vinicius Junior equalised from the penalty spot

Wasteful Real dominated the second half but missed several chances and allowed substitute Fermin Lopez to give the visitors the lead again in the 69th minute from a rebound.

But Real would hit back for the second time as Vazquez lashed in a volley four minutes later.

Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, second left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Lucas Vazquez hauled Madrid level for a second time

Real kept pushing for another goal and their perseverance paid off in added time when Vazquez raced down the right channel and crossed to Bellingham, who fired in the winner to spark jubilant scenes at the Bernabeu.

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Hits and misses: Haaland falls short when it matters again in CL exit

Haaland falls short against Madrid again

Erling Haaland was unable to inspire Manchester City
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Erling Haaland was unable to inspire Manchester City

The night had started well for Erling Haaland. The Norwegian was the recipient of the Champions League golden boot having scored 12 times en route to lifting the trophy last season. It was a peculiar time to be collecting the award, coming before being well-marshalled by both Nacho and Antonio Rudiger.

Despite mustering just 21 touches, the expectation was that he would emerge for extra time. There had been one moment during the first half when he accelerated away from Nacho to remind onlookers that he is a lot more than just a finisher to bring in Jack Grealish.

Haaland would have five attempts of his own, amassing an xG of 0.68 – higher than any team-mate. He would hit the crossbar and send another header over. And yet, the Etihad was stunned to see his number go up as Julian Alvarez was introduced.

Earlier in the contest, Pep Guardiola had replaced Grealish with Jeremy Doku in a move which paid off handsomely. But replacing Haaland? Even with the possibility of penalties half an hour away, it seemed an odd decision.

And so it emerged, with Guardiola confirming that the striker had asked to be replaced. Haaland’s final act came with the last touch of normal time as he couldn’t direct another header on target. Thereafter, City ran out of ideas with the low road proving easier for the Madrid defence to navigate.

“You always do everything to try and avoid going to penalties, that’s what they wanted, but it’s difficult to take,” Ruben Dias said afterwards. City’s designated taker watched on powerless from the sidelines.

Having failed to score at the Santiago Bernabeu – and across the Champions League semi-final against Real last season – those lingering doubts over Haaland’s influence on the biggest stage will grow.
Ben Grounds

Madrid somehow find a way to win

Jude Bellingham celebrates Real Madrid's penalty shootout victory over Manchester City
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Jude Bellingham celebrates Madrid’s penalty shootout win

Manchester City had 67 per cent of the ball and 33 shots but still it did not prove to be enough to eliminate Real Madrid, the team Pep Guardiola calls the kings of Europe. Somehow, Carlo Ancelotti’s team found a way to progress – on penalties.

“I don’t judge the ideas of Carlo and how they decided to play,” said Pep Guardiola afterwards. It was certainly unusual to see the 14-time champions of Europe protecting their penalty box for two hours but what was striking was how good they were at it.

Real Madrid average 59.4 per cent of the possession in La Liga but this was not the day job. Facing City demanded a different approach. “They defended deeper than previous seasons,” said Guardiola. Their concentration was remarkable, every movement was tracked.

Andriy Lunin saves Bernardo Silva's disastrous penalty
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Andriy Lunin saves Bernardo Silva’s disastrous penalty

Dani Carvajal was run ragged by Grealish and then Doku but he was still hugely impressive. Nacho came in for the suspended Aurelien Tchouameni and was superb. Antonio Rudiger erred for the equaliser but was otherwise magnificent and had the final say.

When it went to penalties, the reaction to Luka Modric seeing the first Madrid kick saved was noticeable – the rest of the group rallying him. It was as if nothing, from City’s dominance to falling behind in the shoot-out, would shake their belief.

Ultimately, they had their reward. It was not a swaggering display fit for a king, but the resolve had to be admired. “To win against Real Madrid, we have to be at our best,” said Guardiola. “We were at our best but it was not quite enough.” Madrid found a way.
Adam Bate

Just the start for Arsenal in the Champions League

Mikel Arteta reacts as Arsenal fall to defeat in Munich
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Mikel Arteta reacts as Arsenal fall to defeat in Munich

Another chance of silverware slipped from Arsenal’s grasp in Munich.

It was another disappointing night for the Gunners following their defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday, which handed Man City the initiative in the Premier League title race.

However, while Sunday’s result left the Emirates Stadium flat and deflated as hopes of winning a first Premier League title since 2003/04 suffer a setback, defeat in Europe can be a crucial part of the building and learning process for Mikel Arteta’s young side as they look to become a real force in the Champions League.

“We have to go through the pain,” Arteta said after the 1-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena, which saw the Gunners crash out of the tournament 3-2 on aggregate. “The club has been without Champions League football for seven years and you want to play in the first year and be in the semi-finals or the final. We all wanted that so badly, but you can see in many other clubs it takes them sometimes six or seven years to get to that stage. But we were very close, that’s the reality.”

Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday night, which ended their chances of playing in next season's Club World Cup
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Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday night, which ended their chances of playing in next season’s Club World Cup

Manchester City didn’t make it out of the group stage in their two appearances in the Champions League. They reached one semi-final in their first eight goes at it. They reached the final in their 10th crack at it and only lifted the trophy at the 13th attempt.

The point is it takes time and there’s no shame in a quarter-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich, who reached a 14th semi-final in the competition.

Arsenal’s lack of experience showed in this tie as they handed the initiative to Bayern at a crucial time in the first leg when they were dominant. They switched off for a split second in the second and they were punished. Arteta said it himself: “There was zero margin.”

But just as sides have gone through it before them in Europe’s premier club competition, this young Arsenal side will learn from this. Arteta will learn from this, and the challenge is to keep building, keep improving and going on the trajectory they have been, and come back stronger for another crack next season.
Oliver Yew

Dier – not Kane – helps Bayern see off Arsenal

Eric Dier was key in stopping Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, rather than Harry Kane
Image:
Eric Dier was key in stopping Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, rather than Harry Kane

Much – if not all – of the pre-match build-up to the Bayern vs Arsenal tie focused on Harry Kane. Tottenham’s former captain, top scorer and icon taking on the old foe for his new club where a league title has slipped from their grasp to the hilarity of some.

He fulfilled the prophecy at the Emirates – even suggesting Spurs fans will want Arsenal to win for the sake of the Champions League coefficient – but was anonymous in the second leg on Wednesday.

In fact, it was another former Tottenham player in Eric Dier who had the biggest say in Arsenal’s exit.

It was a congested, tight battle in the midfield, and Dier was effective there as well as in his defensive role. He was top in Bayern’s team for tackles (4), interceptions (3) and total passes (76, with 93.4 per cent accuracy).

Dier also came under the spotlight pre-match for his comments on Ange Postecoglu, but showed confidence and big-game maturity for Bayern Munich.

Along with Kane, the pair now face the challenge of Real Madrid in the semi-finals. More of the same from Dier and consistency from Kane could help Bayern another Champions League final at Wembley.
Charlotte Marsh

Dembele relishes role as scourge of Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele sparked PSG's impressive comeback
Image:
Ousmane Dembele sparked PSG’s impressive comeback

Barcelona ran out at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys armed with a 3-2 triumph from their first meeting in Paris and when Raphinha capitalised on Lamine Yamal’s skilful approach work to fire in the opener, they had sight of the last four.

But that all changed in the 29th minute when defender Ronald Araujo was sent off for tripping winger Bradley Barcola on the edge of the area, VAR confirming the on-field decision for a red card.

PSG didn’t look back. The pressure built on the home goal and Barcelona self-imploded. Joao Cancelo, culpable for Ousmane Dembele’s goal before the break, then brought down the same player inside the box as Kylian Mbappe completed an impressive turnaround.

Xavi had hoped his Barcelona farewell would end with silverware at Wembley following a 13-game unbeaten run since he confirmed his summer departure back in January. But here he was dismissed for kicking pitchside water bottles as hopes of a fairytale ending went down the drain.

For Dembele, jeered throughout by the home supporters, this was the sort of performance which made him Barcelona’s second-most expensive signing when he joined for £135m in 2017.

When the 26-year-old moved to PSG last summer, he was earmarked as Mbappe’s replacement, but he is only just starting to replicate the attacking output required to be mentioned in the same breath as the player who, with 48 goals, has equalled Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the 10th-highest scorer in Champions League history.

For now, PSG are more than happy to have them both in search of their Holy Grail.
Ben Grounds

Xavi blows lid but Barcelona have themselves to blame

Xavi struggled to contain his emotions at full time
Image:
Xavi struggled to contain his emotions at full time

Xavi Hernandez berated the referee and said his performance cost Barcelona a chance to fight for a place in the Champions League semi-finals – but there was little in the way of injustice to the Catalans’ elimination.

Barcelona were in control when they were reduced to 10 just before the half-hour after last man Araujo was shown a red card for a foul on Bradley Barcola.

Xavi complained bitterly to referee Istvan Kovacs. “I told him his performance was a disaster.” A frank admission, but Barcelona were incapable of managing the game.

Joao Cancelo, who was deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, demonstrated why he is better at going forward than defending in two moments which cost Barcelona the tie.

First, he fell asleep at the far post to allow Dembele to reduce the deficit before he then fouled the same player in the 61st minute with a sliding tackle to concede a penalty that Kylian Mbappe fired into the top corner to move the visitors in front in the tie.

Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League sent Atletico Madrid to the inaugural 32-team Club World Cup in the United States next year as Spain’s second representative. All-in-all, a bleak night for the Blaugrana.
Ben Grounds

Sabitzer reminds Man Utd of what might of been

Marcel Sabitzer
Image:
Marcel Sabitzer celebrates his winner against Atlei

Marcel Sabitzer showed glimpses of his obvious talent during last season’s six-month loan stay at Man Utd, albeit not enough to convince manager Erik ten Hag to turn his short-term stay at Old Trafford into a permanent move last summer.

However, given the Austria international’s impressive display to help his side edge through to the Champions League semi-finals after a 5-4 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid, maybe United and Ten Hag erred in that decision.

The 30-year-old joined Borussia Dortmund instead in July and has so far contributed six goals and eight assists in 34 games in total, including two assists and a goal to help see off Atleti in a rousing quarter-final on Tuesday.

And just when his side needed him, Sabitzer first produced a wonderful cross from the left flank which Niclas Fullkrug headed home, before scoring the winner minutes later with a characteristic long-range strike.
Richard Morgan

Defence proves Atleti’s Achilles heel for once

When Angel Correa thumped Atleico 4-3 ahead on aggregate with just 25 minutes left to play at the Westfalenstadion, this pulsating last-eight tie appeared to have taken its final twist.

However, there was always this nagging feeling that this Atleti side did not have the usual DNA of most Diego Simeone teams in that they had appeared defensively weak throughout the two ties.

And as it proved as back roared Dortmund to score twice themselves in quick time and the post-match stats said it all as the visitors conceded four or more goals in a Champions League knockout stage game for just the second time, while they also gave up five shots on target in the first half of a Champions League knockout stage match for the first time since May 2017.

Ultimately, that was to prove decisive as Simeone’s men just could not hold on for another semi-final appearance.
Richard Morgan

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Hits and misses: Dembele relishes role as scourge of Barcelona

Dembele relishes role as scourge of Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele sparked PSG's impressive comeback
Image:
Ousmane Dembele sparked PSG’s impressive comeback

Barcelona ran out at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys armed with a 3-2 triumph from their first meeting in Paris and when Raphinha capitalised on Lamine Yamal’s skilful approach work to fire in the opener, they had sight of the last four.

But that all changed in the 29th minute when defender Ronald Araujo was sent off for tripping winger Bradley Barcola on the edge of the area, VAR confirming the on-field decision for a red card.

PSG didn’t look back. The pressure built on the home goal and Barcelona self-imploded. Joao Cancelo, culpable for Ousmane Dembele’s goal before the break, then brought down the same player inside the box as Kylian Mbappe completed an impressive turnaround.

Xavi had hoped his Barcelona farewell would end with silverware at Wembley following a 13-game unbeaten run since he confirmed his summer departure back in January. But here he was dismissed for kicking pitchside water bottles as hopes of a fairytale ending went down the drain.

For Dembele, jeered throughout by the home supporters, this was the sort of performance which made him Barcelona’s second-most expensive signing when he joined for £135m in 2017.

When the 26-year-old moved to PSG last summer, he was earmarked as Mbappe’s replacement, but he is only just starting to replicate the attacking output required to be mentioned in the same breath as the player who, with 48 goals, has equalled Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the 10th-highest scorer in Champions League history.

For now, PSG are more than happy to have them both in search of their Holy Grail.
Ben Grounds

Xavi blows lid but Barcelona have themselves to blame

Xavi struggled to contain his emotions at full time
Image:
Xavi struggled to contain his emotions at full time

Xavi Hernandez berated the referee and said his performance cost Barcelona a chance to fight for a place in the Champions League semi-finals – but there was little in the way of injustice to the Catalans’ elimination.

Barcelona were in control when they were reduced to 10 just before the half-hour after last man Araujo was shown a red card for a foul on Bradley Barcola.

Xavi complained bitterly to referee Istvan Kovacs. “I told him his performance was a disaster.” A frank admission, but Barcelona were incapable of managing the game.

Joao Cancelo, who was deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, demonstrated why he is better at going forward than defending in two moments which cost Barcelona the tie.

First, he fell asleep at the far post to allow Dembele to reduce the deficit before he then fouled the same player in the 61st minute with a sliding tackle to concede a penalty that Kylian Mbappe fired into the top corner to move the visitors in front in the tie.

Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League sent Atletico Madrid to the inaugural 32-team Club World Cup in the United States next year as Spain’s second representative. All-in-all, a bleak night for the Blaugrana.
Ben Grounds

Sabitzer reminds Man Utd of what might of been

Marcel Sabitzer
Image:
Marcel Sabitzer celebrates his winner against Atlei

Marcel Sabitzer showed glimpses of his obvious talent during last season’s six-month loan stay at Man Utd, albeit not enough to convince manager Erik ten Hag to turn his short-term stay at Old Trafford into a permanent move last summer.

However, given the Austria international’s impressive display to help his side edge through to the Champions League semi-finals after a 5-4 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid, maybe United and Ten Hag erred in that decision.

The 30-year-old joined Borussia Dortmund instead in July and has so far contributed six goals and eight assists in 34 games in total, including two assists and a goal to help see off Atleti in a rousing quarter-final on Tuesday.

And just when his side needed him, Sabitzer first produced a wonderful cross from the left flank which Niclas Fullkrug headed home, before scoring the winner minutes later with a characteristic long-range strike.
Richard Morgan

Defence proves Atleti’s Achilles heel for once

When Angel Correa thumped Atleico 4-3 ahead on aggregate with just 25 minutes left to play at the Westfalenstadion, this pulsating last-eight tie appeared to have taken its final twist.

However, there was always this nagging feeling that this Atleti side did not have the usual DNA of most Diego Simeone teams in that they had appeared defensively weak throughout the two ties.

And as it proved as back roared Dortmund to score twice themselves in quick time and the post-match stats said it all as the visitors conceded four or more goals in a Champions League knockout stage game for just the second time, while they also gave up five shots on target in the first half of a Champions League knockout stage match for the first time since May 2017.

Ultimately, that was to prove decisive as Simeone’s men just could not hold on for another semi-final appearance.
Richard Morgan

Ad content | Stream Sky Sports on NOW

NOW PROMO APRIL 2024

Stream Sky Sports live with no contract on a Month or Day membership on NOW. Instant access to live action from the Premier League, EFL, F1, England Cricket and so much more.

Get Sky Sports on WhatsApp!

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You can now start receiving messages and alerts for the latest breaking sports news, analysis, in-depth features and videos from our dedicated WhatsApp channel!

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