Jesus. That was a bit much wasn’t it? Man City knocked out by a Swiss strike in Naples, and Man United knocked out by a Swiss header in Basel. CSKA Moscow qualifying at the San Siro and the unbelievable Lyon scoring seven goals in half an hour to produce a nine goal swing and a place in the finals. Even the day before there was Chelsea dominating Valencia to secure a spot and Olympiakos agonizingly denied theirs by Marseille in Dortmund. And let’s not forget Apoel Nicosia’s qualification that was secured in Russia. I had to take a pot of valium just to survive. It was Magic.
Let’s take a look back at the eight (because I said so) toppest top goals from this year’s majestic group round.
8 – Sergio Aguero v Villarreal
At the time, this goal was enormous for Man City. The Citizens needed a win for points and confidence, but had lacked the creative spark to get the second goal. Forget Aguero, he was just a Johnathan on the spot. This goal defines the difference between a League player and a Champions League player. The CL player in question is James Milner.
He receives the ball, uses his eyes, and checks back on his cross because he knows it will be blocked. That composure at 93 minutes is top class, let alone the reverse ball he then plays. He didn’t score and he doesn’t get the assist but he was man of the match.
7 – David Villa v AC Milan
To take the lead over Milano. I’ll let the moving picture tell the rest.
6 – Alexandre Pato v Barcelona
Villa’s free kick wasn’t the only great goal in that fixture. Bar set pieces, Barca’s only weakness is the high line they play. This isn’t normally a problem because: a) the opposition never has the ball to attack, and b) any player in a position to run through is usually crowded out by the immense pressure of the Catalans. Alexandre Pato blows this up with an insane turn of pace inside the first 30 seconds and makes Barcelona look average for a moment.
5 – Bafetimbi Gomis v Dynamo Zagreb
We frequently hear the excuses of managers from newly promoted teams about how there is very little margin for error in the Premier League. That margin reduces to zero in the Champions League, however slight the mistake. Ivan Kelava doesn’t know whether to stick or twist after Zagreb lose possession, and is punished by the kind of quality that defines the tournament.
4 – Rodrigo v Basel
The CL is also a good place to educate yourself about the talent around Europe. I was very surprised when 19 year old Rodrigo took the gifted Oscar Cardozo’s place in Benfica’s tie with Basel. He didn’t take long to show me why. The technique used in this goal is absolutely immaculate. Just look at that last camera angle, scoring perfection.
No good Youtube link – check it out here.
3 – Ivan Perisic v Arsenal
It takes a lot of work to get an equalising goal. Sometimes no amount of graft and possession will get you there. Sometimes you need a player to have a moment of complete genius. In this instance, the Croat Perisic was that player. To produce that finish at this kind of level is magic.
2 – Kevin-Prince Boateng v Barcelona
This goal is crazy. Boateng had already scored a goal in the tournament that would be here had the competition not been so stiff. The only reason this isn’t numero uno is because Milano and Barca had only top spot to play for, rather than qualification. Nevertheless, this goal has it all; great control, unbelieeeeeevable tekkers, and a deadly finish, all encapsulated with the confidence of a player at the top of his form.
Just look at that wizard skill. A volleyed heel chop. Against Barcelona.
1 – Mathieu Valbuena v Borussia Dortmund
Marseille needed a win to qualify at the German defensive master’s home ground after a disappointing group stage. Come half time the French team found themselves 2-1 down, with no signs of change in the second half. With eight minutes to go they equalise – still not enough to qualify.
The key to success in the Champions League is having a player who can shine on the biggest stage of all. A player who won’t only perform with consistency, but will sometimes do the unthinkable. A player who will grab the team on the brink of disaster and completely turn it around.
With four minutes until Les Phocéens were eliminated, Mathieu Valbuena showed why he belongs in the best competition in the world.