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This Week In Football: Manchester City dismantle Real Madrid, Sheffield Wednesday stage a historic comeback & more

Well, well, well, what a week it has been! If the semi-final second legs of the three UEFA men’s competitions were not enough, we had some unbelievable drama and action from elsewhere too including England and Cambodia.

🏆 UEFA Champions League: Manchester City 4-0 Real Madrid (5-1 on aggregate)

For the second time in about a year, Manchester City and Real Madrid found themselves squaring off in a Champions League semi-final tie.

Los Blancos staged a dramatic late comeback at the Santiago Bernabéu in the second leg last year to advance to the final which they would eventually win, so Man City were out for revenge here.

The second leg was at the Etihad Stadium this time, and the teams went level into it having drawn 1-1 in Spain. That match was fairly even, but there were gaps in Madrid’s defensive structure which City did not really try too hard to exploit.

They certainly did that this time, though, utterly dominating proceedings from the get-go. Their first goal in the 23rd minute seemed absolutely inevitable, as it came after seven shots and over 80% possession while Madrid struggled to register just five touches in the opposition half.

Bernardo Silva completed his brace well before half-time, but the visitors’ sole shot of the half — a thunderous Toni Kroos strike from range that rattled the crossbar — served as a reminder of what Madrid could do.

Therefore, Manuel Akanji’s first Man City goal in the 76th minute was an important one, as it sealed the result for good.

Late on, Julián Álvarez came on and quickly got on the scoresheet after watching Erling Braut Haaland thwarted by Thibaut Courtois’ superhuman saves earlier on, as Man City put up a scoreline that reflected their incredible performance.

They are now overwhelming favourites to finally win their first Champions League.

🏆 UEFA Europa League: Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 Roma (0-1 on aggregate)

Down in the Europa League, no one should have been surprised to see Sevilla get past Juventus and reach yet another final.

Their opponents will be Roma, who have made it to back-to-back European finals for the first time in their history.

There are no prizes for guessing how they got the job done. Having come away with a one-goal lead from the first leg in Rome (where they did not see too much of the ball anyway), Roma sat back and delivered a vintage José Mourinho side defensive performance.

They saw just 28% of the ball at BayArena and could only fashion one attempt early on from well outside the box, but the most important thing for them was keeping their opponents at bay.

They did that pretty well, as none of the hosts’ 23 shots were clear-cut chances. Only six of them hit the target, and they were all pretty straightforward saves for Rui Patrício.

The final should be very interesting, as an unstoppable force will meet an immovable object when Sevilla try to break down Roma’s defence in the Europa League.

🏆 UEFA Europa Conference League: FC Basel 1-3 Fiorentina (3-4 on aggregate)

There was even more drama in the Europa Conference League. West Ham’s tie with AZ Alkmaar was pretty uneventful on the pitch as the Hammers put together a staunch defensive performance before delivering a killer blow late on, although that sparked some unsavoury scenes in the stands. However, the other tie went the distance and some.

FC Basel were looking to hold on to their aggregate lead and become the first Swiss side to ever reach a major European final, but Fiorentina had other ideas. They utterly dominated the match and deservedly opened the scoring through Nicolás González in the 35th minute.

But Basel have made a habit of coming away with results even in matches where they were second-best in this competition this season, and that is what they looked to be doing again when Zeki Amdouni scored with their first shot on target early in the second half.

Nicolás González struck again in the 72nd minute to take the game to extra time, where the visitors’ domination continued.

A long delay due to a medical emergency in the stands meant that we had a lot of added time after the 120 minutes, which Fiorentina used to grab a deserved winner through Antonín Barák.

With that, Fiorentina became the first team ever to reach the finals of four different major European competitions.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 Peterborough United (5-5 on aggregate; 5-3 on penalties)

As if the Europa League and Europa Conference League did not make Thursday night exciting enough, League One decided to get involved with what might well be the greatest English Football League play-off comeback we will live to see.

Sheffield Wednesday accumulated a club-record points tally of 96 in the regular season, but that was only enough for them to finish third.

Their play-off semi-final opponents were Peterborough United, who finished 19 points behind them. Yet, they put four past Darren Moore’s side in the first leg.

Since they suffered such a heavy defeat right after the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion, nobody thought they even had a chance of staging a comeback in the second leg.

But Hillsborough began to believe after the ninth minute when Michael Smith converted an early penalty for the hosts.

Lee Gregory made it 2-0 on the night soon enough, but the wait for the third goal was a long one. It eventually came through Reece James in the 71st minute, but that was still not enough.

As time ticked on towards and then past the 90 minutes, some Wednesday fans might have started to lose their recently-regained hope, but there was much more in store for them.

With what might have been the last sequence of the match, Wednesday flung in a long throw. After the right amount of chaos in the box, it was turned in by Liam Palmer. Hillsborough absolutely erupted, but they still had a job to do.

And they were certainly reminded of that when Peterborough scored their first goal of the night in extra time to retake the aggregate lead. But Callum Paterson helped Wednesday equalise again, taking the match to penalties.

Even though the goalkeepers got quite close on a couple of occasions, everyone who hit the target scored.

Dan Butler’s crossbar-tester cost Peterborough a place at Wembley Stadium and allowed the biggest-ever second-leg turnaround in EFL play-off history to be completed. Well, well, well indeed.

🏆 SEA Games 2023: Indonesia 5-2 Thailand

The most chaotic match of the week certainly took place in Cambodia, where the Southeast Asian Games drew to a close. On the penultimate day, the men’s football final saw Indonesia and Thailand face off.

To be more accurate, it was the under-22 sides who were playing due to the age limit set for the tournament, but the teams showed no lack of intensity. If anything, they showed a bit too much of it at the end, when things turned rather ugly.

Indonesia were 2-1 up in the seventh minute of stoppage time after 90 minutes when the referee blew his whistle for a Thai free-kick.

Some of their representatives on the bench thought it was the full-time whistle and ran onto the pitch to celebrate. After they realised what was going on and were told to return to the dugout by the referee, Thailand scored a very late equaliser to take the match to extra time!

A brawl almost broke out when the players and coaches from Thailand’s dugout ran in front of their opponents to celebrate, but security intervened to disperse the crowd and we went on to extra time. Indonesia retook the lead just a minute in, sparking similar celebrations from those on their bench.

The scrap got out of hand this time and a fair few punches were thrown, leading to some images that would look better suited with those from the boxing final.

After things eventually calmed down, it was red cards galore as representatives of both nations were sent off. Thailand finished the game with just eight players, so they unsurprisingly conceded twice more.

👀 What To Watch Next:

We’ve got another busy weekend of football coming up, so here are a few big matches:

🏆 CAF Champions League: Mamelodi Sundowns vs Wydad Casablanca (Saturday, 13:00 UTC)
It is all to play for in the big CAF Champions League semi-final between defending champions Wydad Casablanca and Mamelodi Sundowns, who will be glad to go into this game level on aggregate having finished the first leg with nine men.

🇳🇴 Norway: Lillestrøm vs Brann (Saturday, 14:00 UTC)
The final of the 2022/23 Norwegian Cup features neither of the two teams that have dominated Eliteserien of late. Instead, it is Lillestrøm who take on freshly-promoted Brann, whose last cup title came way back in 2004.

🇩🇪 Germany: Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig (Saturday, 16:30 UTC)
The Bundesliga title race could take a decisive twist on the penultimate matchday when leaders Bayern Munich face fourth-placed RB Leipzig, who will secure a spot in next season’s Champions League if they win.

🇲🇽 Mexico: Monterrey vs Tigres (Sunday, 01:06 UTC)
The Liguilla semi-finals’ second legs are set to be played this weekend, with all to play for yet in both ties. América have a one-goal lead over Chivas, while Monterrey and Tigres are tied 1-1.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Chelsea W vs Arsenal W (Sunday, 11:30 UTC)
After winning the FA Cup last weekend, Chelsea must turn their attention back to the Women’s Super League. They have returned to the top of the standings after playing their games in hand, but have a tough fixture against Arsenal on the penultimate matchday, which they must win to stay first.

Stats courtesy FotMob and Transfermarkt.

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