Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi targeting 1 June
Anfield punished Porto, as was to be feared. Liverpool's home is an imposing ground and more so on European nights, when they say Shankley's ghost is present. 'This is Anfield', reads the banner played above the heads of the players as they come out onto the pitch - fired up or fearful depending on whether they are in the home or the visiting side. Porto, lacking Pepe too, lost two quick goals to the Anfield effect; two goals which will weigh heavily on them in the tie. I felt for Casillas, who wasn't to blame for either goal. Like so many, I'd like him to get through to another round in this competition, where he's already made 176 appearances. But he needs a major miracle in O Dragao.
The other game of the night was an all-English affair: Tottenham v Manchester City, which served as the European premiere for the brand-new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as it's called at the moment, until some super-brand appears to baptise it with some vulgar name. It was a more reserved game than expected from a classical view of what a clash between British sides should mean. But these two sides are coached by two scientists of the game, who are well-known in Spain: Pocchettino and Guardiola, who, without consulting each other, set-out a rather cautious affair. For City, the stronger side, things went wrong, first with a failed penalty from Kun Agüero, and then with the goal from Son. The 1-0 result leaves the tie open for the return leg at the Etihad.
Today's double matinee is presided over by two lead actors. Cristiano in the end travelled to Amsterdam, where Real Madrid's executioner, Ajax, awaits Juventus. And Messi will be at Old Trafford, leading a Barcelona side who have another Liga in the bag (their eighth from the last 11!) and a fine chance at landing the Copa del Rey, but who feel they need to do something more because, while their last Champions League triumph isn't so long ago (2015), the three consecutive triumphs by Real Madrid in the tournament means the memories feel long buried. That's why Messi spoke of that "Cup that's so beautiful and everyone wants so much". Messi has 1 June ringed in red on his calendar, with the word 'Metropolitano' underneath. Just as Cristiano Ronaldo does. The road to the final where they might meet passes through Amsterdam and Manchester.