• Kieran Horn

BEST OF THE BEST: WHO MADE THIS WEEKS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TOTW


Goalkeeper - Matvey Safanov


The Krasnodar backline were certainly kept busy by the exciting Rennes attack, in particular goalkeeper Matvey Safanov, as both teams made their Champions League debut.


Adrien Honou thought he’d stolen the points for the French side right at the death but his goal-bound effort was wonderfully saved by Safanov.


The Russia shot-stopper could’ve done slightly better from Serhou Guirassy’s penalty, as the ball squeezed underneath him, but he certainly made up for it with his excellent save after Krasnodar’s equaliser, ensuring they at least took a point back to Russia.


Defenders


Axel Tuanzebe – DEF


No competitive game in ten months? No problem for Axel Tuanzebe.


The 20-year-old defender has had more injuries than he or any United fan would prefer to count, but Tuesday night against PSG he was immense.


Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were limited to little at the Parc Des Princes on Tuesday and that was largely in part due to the perfectly balanced back five deployed by Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer.


Tuanzebe’s performance can best be summed up with his piece of defending in the 33rd minute.


Mbappe picked up the ball and drove at the United defence with his blistering pace, Tuanzebe stuck tight to him, used the French World Cup winners forward momentum against him and won the ball cleanly with a strong standing tackle, leaving the wonderkid on the floor.


Hardly playing like a footballer who has not been on the pitch competitively in nearly a year.


Fabinho

The lengthy injury suffered to Virgil Van Dijk in last Saturday’s Merseyside Derby would’ve put a lot of worry and panic into the minds of the Liverpool faithful, but they may have just found their alternative.


Usual holding midfielder Fabinho had to revert to being a centre half amidst another defensive injury crisis for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds and yet again he didn’t put a foot wrong.


The Brazilian martialled the Liverpool backline impressively alongside Joe Gomez, and made a delightful acrobatic goal-line clearance to deny Dusan Tadic just before the interval.


Liverpool saw out their opening group game in Ajax with a hard-fought clean sheet thanks to a commanding performance from Fabinho.


Christian Romero

Atalanta have made a habit of scoring a ludicrous amount of goals, with the attacking trident of Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata and Papu Gomez a nightmare to contain and they were so dominant against FC Midtyjlland even the defenders got in on the action.


Christian Romero set up Zapata for Atalanta’s opener with a delicate cushioned header into the path of the Colombian who picked out the bottom corner with ease.


The 20-year-old on-loan from Juventus did not just add contributions in the attack but also defensively, sitting in the middle of a back five limiting Midtyjlland to limited chances, with five clearances, two tackles and three key interceptions.

Midfielders


Kingsley Coman

Kieran Trippier may have avoided the embarrassing defeat Bayern Munich handed out to Spurs in last seasons Champions League, after leaving in the summer of 2019, but Kingsley Coman ensured the Englishman got his share of embarrassment on Wednesday night.


The matchwinner from the Champions League final in August was unplayable in Bayern’s four-nil win against Atletico, scoring twice and setting up one.


The Frenchman latched onto a lofted ball from Joshua Kimmich, getting the wrong side of Trippier, before firing past Jan Oblak.


13 minutes later he picked out Leon Goretzka for Bayern’s second with a driven pass across the box and then rounded of a dominating performance for the reigning champions of Europe with a clever finish through the legs of Oblak.

Ansu Fati

The famed La Masia Youth Academy has produced some of the best footballers to ever play the game, and although it has dwindled in recent years, Barcelona undoubtedly have their next generational talent in Ansu Fati.


Despite being only 17, Fati plays with confidence of a footballing veteran, scoring a goal and grabbing an assist in Barcelona’s opening game.


He first played a sharp one-two with Frenkie De Jong, where his then slightly mis-hit volley just about crept in at the far post.


For the home sides third, Fati picked out Coutinho with an instinctive back-heel straight into the path of the Brazilian who struck home at Denes Dibusz near post.


Zlatko Junozovic

RB Salzburg started this Champions League campaign without the deadly Erling Haaland but the Austrian outfit still posed a huge threat to the Lokomotiv Moscow goal, mostly coming in the form of Zlatko Junozovic.


The former Werder Bremen man dominated the midfield alongside Mohamed Camara and assisted Salzburg’s equaliser, playing a clever short corner into the path of Dominik Szoboszlai who unleashed a thunderbolt which cannoned of the underside of the bar.


Junozovic then turned goal scorer, giving Salzburg the lead with an arrowed strike into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the box.


Lokomotiv Moscow may have taken a point back to Russia with them, but Junozovic’s impressive performance will not be forgotten about any time soon.


Tete


Despite the turmoil of Real Madrid in recent years, no one could have predicted a second-string Shaktar Donetsk would rock up to the Alfredo Di Stefano training complex and be three up at half time.


After 13 first team players were unavailable due to 19 positive COVID-19 tests at the Ukrainian club, Luis Castro had to call up some youth-team players to help complete the squad, but that didn’t stop them going into a deserved three goal lead at half time.


Tete played a huge part in both goals scored by Shaktar players after Raphael Varane’s own goal, finishing lethally for the opener and bamboozling Marcelo with a cross-field run and deft flick allowing Manor Salomon to score the third.


Real Madrid though they had snatched a point but second-half substitute Vinicius Jr was in an offside position for Federico Valverde’s last-gasp strike, giving the Ukrainians a famous victory.


Attackers


Alvaro Morata


Without Cristiano Ronaldo due to a positive COVID-19 test while on international duty, Juventus needed to find their goals from elsewhere and luckily for Andrea Pirlo, summer signing Alvaro Morata stepped up to the plate.


The Spaniard, who had a previous spell with the Old Lady between 2014 and 2016, showed his penalty box prowess with both goals in Juventus’ win over Dynamo Kyiv.


Firstly, reacting quickest to a shot from Dejan Kulusevski to give Juve the lead 90 seconds into the second half and then got another one five minutes from the end heading home a Juan Cuadrado cross to give the Italian Champions three points on opening night.

Lionel Messi


This is going to become a regular thing isn’t it, but you just cannot leave out the six-time Ballon D’or winner.


Imperative to Barcelona’s systematic destruction of Hungarian side Ferencvarosi TC, Messi went past about five defenders to earn and then convert a penalty for the opener.


The Argentine made four key passes and attempted seven successful dribbles in the 90 minutes, finally setting up the easiest of chances for Ousmane Dembele to round of the game with Barca’s fifth.


Even with Gerrard Pique’s dismissal in the 68th minute, Ronald Koeman’s side were simply too good on the night.


Ciro Immobile


Erling Haaland has been virtually unstoppable for Borussia Dortmund scoring 22 goals since his January move. While Ciro Immobile, who had a slightly less successful spell in Germany, lined up against him with a point to prove, which he certainly managed.


The Italian forward opened the scoring at the Stadio Olimpico, finishing with a delicate lob over Marvin Hitz after former Liverpool man Lucas Leiva dispossessed Jude Bellingham on his Champions League debut.


The lethal Norwegian striker did pull one back for Dortmund, but he was overshadowed by a complete performance from Immobile who this time turned provider, squaring the ball across to Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro for Lazio’s 3rd and three crucial points.


Manager


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Following the initial back five selection which included a United debut for Alex Telles and the first starting appearance for Axel Tuanzebe since December 18, 2019, not too many United fans were optimistic about United’s chances against last seasons Champions League finalists, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved he’s much more than a “P.E teacher”.


The Manchester United manager showcased several tactical plans in Paris on Tuesday night.

Starting by compressing the space for the hosts with the midfield block of Fred & Scott McTominay, leaving Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial high up the pitch which ultimately led to United’s opener from the penalty spot.


Following Martial’s unfortunate own goal, Ole had to change something and he did that by reverting to a back four and bringing on Paul Pogba.


The more attacking approach left PSG struggling to cope with Pogba and despite having more of the ball over the course of the game, they couldn’t find that elusive second goal.


Instead, it was United who got it late on through Marcus Rashford. Now that United were ahead, the Norwegian manager brought on Danny Van De Beek and Dan James to see out an impressive win for the Red Devils.

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