FC Barcelona 2-1 Minsk
If you'd asked Xavi Llorens beforehand how he dreamed of the tie going, his description surely would hardly have differed from how the two legs panned out. It could barely have gone any better for the Catalans, who put one foot firmly in the last 16 with their 3-0 win away in Minsk, secured courtesy of a Jenni Hermoso brace and a goal from Marta Torrejon, and then eased over the finishing line.
The Azulgranas were by far the better team in the first leg in Belarus, encountering scant resistance, and the return match at the Miniestadi followed a very similar script. This, despite the fact that Llorens rested some of his regulars, conscious that there is a long season ahead and Barcelona are bidding to challenge on all fronts. Olga Garcia, Leila Ouahabi, Ruth Garcia and Sandra Paños all started on the bench, while Mariona Caldentey was handed a chance to impress and did just that. The youngster was not remotely fazed by the rarefied atmosphere of the Champions League or by the torrential downpour, producing a woman-of-the-match performance during which she took players on for fun.
Barça bossed the encounter throughout and it was verging on a travesty that the first half finished scoreless. Credit where credit is due, though: Ekaterina Kovalchuk in the Minsk goal had a lot to do with it, making a number of fine saves. That said, the home team, who played some delightful stuff and sprayed the ball around at will, did not help themselves with some wayward finishing. The visitors, for their part, scarcely crossed the halfway line… until they broke the deadlock against the run of play, that is. A moment of brilliance from Emueje Ogbiagbevha in the 51st minute did the trick, as the attacker produced a venomous strike from just inside the area that left Laura Rafols powerless.
This bolt out of the blue proved very much to be a false dawn for Minsk. It was only a matter of time before Llorens's ladies got on the scoresheet – eight minutes, it turned out, after falling behind. The referee pointed to the spot for handball and Jenni coolly stroked home the resulting penalty, bringing the Belarusians back down to earth with a bump. Then, in the 75th minute, Andressa Alves settled the contest by making it 2-1 with her first competitive goal for the Azulgranas, a fierce drive from the edge of the box after jinking past a defender. Before the action came to a close, Hermoso got the fans off their seats one more time with a magnificent piece of skill, weathering the storm – literally – to cheekily nutmeg an opponent and run on to the ball. Having comfortably got the job done, Barcelona will be looking to reproduce this sort of form when they return to the Women's Champions League for the round of 16.
Fortuna Hjorring 3-1 Athletic Club (aet)
It was wonderful while it lasted – the thrill of playing at San Mames in front of over 10,000 people and running out 2-1 winners to boot, with Maite Oroz dominating the front page of all of Bilbao's newspapers the following day. It was a fairy tale which almost defied belief. Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Joseba Agirre's charges had won the first leg 2-1 thanks to goals by Yulema Corres and Maite Oroz and travelled to Denmark with the advantage – minimal, but an advantage nonetheless. Neither of the two teams managed to clearly dominate possession in the early stages, but it was Fortuna who posed the greater threat. Athletic were having problems playing the ball out from the back and Fortuna were closing in on goal, to the point where they found the back of the net (31'). However, the referee ruled it out, adjudging Camilla Larsen to have climbed on Eunate Arraiza's back to get her head to the ball. Minutes earlier, Nekane Diez had clattered the woodwork. And so the first half ended goalless.
After the restart, Fortuna's mission was clear: to score. A single goal would see them through to the next round. There was no doubt about Athletic's objective either: to hold out, any way they could. Fortuna stepped things up a gear after returning to the field of play and took the lead three minutes into the second half through a Nevena Damjanovic free-kick from the edge of the area. It was time to dig deep, but the overriding sensation was the home team were closer to doubling their advantage than Agirre's ladies were to cancelling it out. To make things worse, injury forced Vanesa Gimbert to withdraw. What followed consisted of goalscoring chances for Fortuna, who seized control of proceedings, and attempts by Athletic to level the scores. And the visitors managed it on 69 minutes, Maite starting off the move and Yulema sliding a beautiful ball through the lines for Erika Vazquez to put beyond the keeper's reach. It was an absolutely fantastic goal, and it put Athletic within touching distance of the last 16.
Fortuna continued to push hard, but Athletic responded smartly by starting to dominate possession – it is impossible for your opponents to score if they do not have the ball. The Danes relentlessly pumped crosses into the box, but they lacked accuracy. Finally they got it right. With 84 minutes played, following a fine save by Ainhoa Tirapu from a corner, Larsen capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to level the tie just when Athletic were on top. Extra time ensued and things were so evenly matched that the prospect of penalties loomed ever larger. Both teams had a couple of chances, but the scoreline remained unaltered. With two minutes left to play before a shootout, Tamires found herself in space in the box and fired home. It was 3-1 and there was no time to reply. Fortuna await the last-16 draw and Las Leonas return home with their European dreams in tatters, but having played in the most competitive clash in the Women's Champions League round of 32.© LaLiga - Year 2016