The Reuters global sports blog
The Champions League is heading for another spectacular climax after the quarter-final clashes produced expected winners in holders Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, who must be relishing the prospect of taking centre stage in the final in their own stadium on May 19.
But rather than the usual suspects who predictably reach the latter stages of the money-spinning competition every season, it was the highly unheralded outfit of APOEL Nicosia that lit up the scene this time.
The Cypriots defied the odds to reach even the group stage of the competition and then stunned one rival after another, punching way above their weight until they finally succumbed to Real 8-2 on aggregate.
They bowed out with their heads high and their Serbian coach Ivan Jovanovic, who had emerged from complete obscurity very much like the Champions League surprise package personified by his team, was graceful after the incredible ride ended.
Men tuning in for lots of action in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg ties would have rued the decision to stay in front of the TV on Valentines’ Night when Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen and Olympique Lyon against APOEL Nicosia reached the 40-minute mark.
Both were 0-0. APOEL had not registered a shot on goal. Barcelona had dominated their German opposition with 78 per cent of possession, yet no opening score.
Yes World, European and Spanish champions Barca have been brilliant and in time we may say they were the greatest ever club side to play the game.