In a week of innumerable upsets and narrowly won matches, the big names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney failed to shine. Rather it was the German clubs who stood strong this game week with Dortmund and Schalke pulling off two memorable upsets. TheHardTackle puts together a team of the week from the recently concluded Champions League matches.
Fraser Forster (Celtic): Being a goalkeeper at the Nou Camp is never an easy task, especially when you aren’t considered one of the best in the world. But somehow, Fraser Forster, a former Newcastle United reject, pulled off some of the most sensational saves to deny the world’s best attacking unit from completely decimating his side. Forster made a total of eight saves against Barcelona, with two remarkable ones against Messi being the cream to the crop. If only Jordi Alba hadn’t scored that stoppage time winner!
Joel Matip (Schalke 04): The Royal Blues came into the game against Arsenal on the back of a brilliant Revierderby victory. Matip had a decent game over the weekend but his performance against Arsenal was nothing short of brilliant. The burly Cameroonian didn’t put in a single wrong foot all night and was most instrumental in keeping Arsenal’s attack at bay. Matip made a commendable total of four tackles, five interceptions and ten clearances last night.
Niklas Moisander (Ajax): One could probably find only a handful of fans who would have predicted an Ajax victory over Manchester City, and almost one who would have predicted a victory of the caliber of last night’s. Niklas Moisander was instrumental in Ajax’s victory over Manchester City last night, also aiding with a goal to give Ajax the lead. Moisander regularly attempted to build from the back, playing sixty-six passes with a ninety-eight percent accuracy rate. Probably not the greatest defensive showing but if not for Moisander, Ajax may not have created and dominated the way they did on Wednesday.
Adil Rami (Valencia): Valencia went up against an immensely confident BATE Borisov side on Wednesday and must have entered this game with a great deal of caution. And they barely disappointed in their bid to destroy the Belarusians. Although it was Roberto Soldado who was their hattrick hero, Adil Rami completely nullified all that BATE had to offer with consummate ease over the ninety minutes. The Frenchman was a rock in Valencia’s backline, making five tackles, one interception and five clearances.
Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund): The goals may have come from Marcel Schmelzer and Robert Lewandowski but Mario Götze was a constant threat down Dortmund’s right flank. The diminutive attacker troubled left-back, Michael Essien, all night long and gave Pepe a fairly torrid time too. Götze was one of Dortmund’s live wires last night, making a total of forty-eight passes, testing Iker Casillas on two occasions and winning three fouls for his side. Götze also came close to winning a penalty for his side but went down a little too easily for the referee’s liking. All in all, an energetic performance from Dortmund’s little star.
Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain): Touted as the next Andrea Pirlo, Marco Verratti was at his ball playing best against Dinamo Zagreb. The 19-year-old wreaked havoc in Dinamo’s defense and did so from a deep position by constantly playing long balls to pick out members of his star-studded attack. Verratti played a mind-boggling 117 passes out of which only 10 were misplaced. The youngster wasn’t shy to lunge into challenges as he put in five tackles and made three interceptions to stop Dinamo from testing PSG’s defense. Italy might just have a new and improved version of Andrea Pirlo.
Sebastian Kehl (Borussia Dortmund): The captain put in an exemplary performance against the reigning Spanish champions, playing a hugely important role in shutting down Real Madrid’s attack. Keeping the likes of Mesut Özil, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso quiet is a mammoth if not impossible task but this did not deter Captain Kehl one bit. The industrious midfielder constantly kept Madrid’s attackers under the cloche with his timely challenges and quality positioning. Kehl finished the night with four tackles and seven clearances, thereby helping Dortmund to a memorable victory over Real Madrid.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk): The Ukrainian giants continued their superb European campaign with another massive result as they comfortably beat defending champions, Chelsea. In this top-notch showing, their Armenian midfield gem was at his exuberant best. Mkhitaryan helped in attack and defense, proving to be a sharp thorn in Chelsea’s plan to secure an early qualification. The 23-year-old sensation had a hundred percent shooting record, testing the keeper on five out of five occasions. He also managed a respectable four tackles over the ninety minutes, thereby preventing Chelsea’s attacks higher up the pitch.
Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona): The Spanish giants put in a very average performance against a spirited Celtic side and it was Iniesta’s constant threatening movement and brilliant goal that propelled Barcelona to victory. Iniesta continually troubled Celtic’s players on the left flank with his quick passing and individual flair, and his efforts were rewarded when he played a magnificent one-two and then finished from a difficult position. The Spaniard made a total of 142 passes, misplacing just about 12 passes. If not for the Catalan genius, Barcelona could well have lost to Celtic at the Nou Camp.
Roberto Soldado (Valencia): With both the big Spanish sides failing to impress this matchday, Malaga and Valencia were in form to keep the La Liga’s reputation untarnished. In Valencia’s 3-0 thrashing of BATE Borisov, Roberto Soldado played the role of the head architect by scoring all three of his sides goals. Soldado opened the scoring when he converted a penalty that he won himself. He doubled his lead ten minutes into the second half with a brilliant volley from inside the box. The Spaniard completed the rout with a simple tap in that resulted from some intricate passing between Tino Costa and himself. Looks like Leo and Cristiano still have a few tricks to learn.
Jackson Martinez (FC Porto): Porto were involved in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Dynamo Kyiv in their third group A encounter and have Jackson Martinez to thank for their victory. With both clubs locked at a goal apiece, Martinez scored with a good finish as he displayed good strength to hold off the defender and slotted calmly past the keeper. Porto gave away this lead and once again called upon the burly striker to seal the three points. Martinez completed his brace and Porto’s victory with a simple tap in. Have the Portuguese side found their replacement for Falcao?
Notable mentions: Jesper Hansen (Nordsjælland), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund), Thiago Silva (PSG), Manuel Iturra (Malaga), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Fernando Gago (Valencia), Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Alan (Braga)