The Eight matches of the first leg in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 are now over with only one home win (Arsenal over Barcelona) and three Italian teams losing at home at the prestige and standing of the Serie A around the continent continues to crumble. Only when Juventus return to greatness will the Serie A be back in full power, but that’s a different subject. Here are seven player who stood out in each match (for good and bad). We couldn’t find a decent thing from the Marseille – United Bore-fest from last night.
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal
Arsene Wenger’s 19 year old prodigy is already in the English national team, with Fabio Capello being a big fan of the Stevenage born player. His second half display against Barcelona, probably the worst midfield you would like to face, along with Cesc Fabregas who will probably be playing for Barcelona at some point, was a delight. His tackling, his passing and his ability to push his team forward showed what a talented and promising player he is. If he can only avoid the Aaron Ramsey fate, meaning no one from Stoke tries to break his leg, the future is bright.
Disappointing season in the Bundesliga? Problems are forgotten on the European stage, and Raul gave Schalke a crucial away goal at the Mestalla, a ground he knows so well, scoring his 69th Champions League goal and 13th for Schalke this season. He’s not what he used to be, but he is still a goal poacher at a very high level. It probably won’t be good enough when facing the elite clubs, but it should be good enough for this round against Valencia.
Gennaro Gattuso, AC Milan
Gattuso has been warned not to arrive at Tottenham’s stadium in two weeks after his appalling display of violence in the first leg at the San Siro. Cheap hits, dirty tackles, constant fighting with Spurs’ players (who did their part in heating things up) and head-butting Joe Jordan, one of Harry Redknapp’s assistant and causing a brawl at the end of the match. He’s been suspended for four matches. I think Milan are better off without him in the second leg.
Jadson, Shakhtar Donetsk
It was hard to pick one player from Shakhtar’s 13 minute Brazilian blitz on Roma, but Jadson did score the first goal and set up Dougla Costa’s second, giving Shakhtar a very confidence-building 3-2 win at the Olimpico.
Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
The return of the favorite son – Benzema missed out on Lyon’s 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu last year and was eager to show his worth both to Mourinho and to his former fans (who gave him a very warm welcome). He came in after 64 minutes and 60 second later was on the score sheet. Real eventually dropped the lead, but finally have an advantage for the second leg with a good chance of breaking their quarter final drought.
Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea
Carlo Ancelotti dropped Didier Drogba and got two typical Nicolas Anelka goals. Not flashy, not spectacular, just an efficient brace from the French striker, reaching 7 Champions League goals this season as he slipped under the attention grabbed by Fernando Torres.
Thomas Kraft, Bayern Munich
The 22 year old goalkeeper was perfect last night at the San Siro, stopping Cambiasso and Eto’o, especially in the final 15 minutes barrage of shots from Inter. Bayern got a little lucky in the end with Julio Cesar’s bad stop and Mario Gomez making the most of it, but there was no luck involved (well, maybe a little) in Kraft’s performance.