Who shined in this week’s UEFA Champions League ties? And who stunk out the joint? As we gear up towards the Champions League final, FOXSoccer.com fetes the stars who shone and shames the players who simply didn’t show up during each knockout stage matchday. Here are this week’s studs and duds from Europe’s premier competition:
STUD: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Much of the pregame chatter before Tuesday’s night clash focused on Petr Cech’s "so-called curse" on Messi and with good reason. The reigning World Player of the Year had surprisingly gone six matches — 10 hours and 11 minutes for those mathematically inclined — without a single goal vs. the Czech goalkeeper. As luck would have it, the Barca superstar scored twice vs. Arsenal and all but sealed the defending champs’ quarterfinal place while debunking kryptonite’s existence in the process.
DUD: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Ozil’s mere presence on this list caused a rousing debate among FOXSoccer.com Insiders but numbers don’t lie. Per Opta statistics, the German playmaker has now gone nine Champions League games without an assist and was rather ineffective in breaking Barcelona’s backline during critical spots. His body language certainly didn’t help matters and only adds fuel to the growing concerns whether Ozil can deliver the goods when it matters most.
STUD: Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)
Hobbled by injuries for much of the season, Robben proved on Tuesday that when he’s healthy, the now 32-year-old is still impossible to stop. Lively throughout and bustling with pace, the Dutchman was unlucky a few times before ultimately providing Bayern a second away-goal that proved even more important after Juve’s comeback. It was a vintage Robben goal, cutting in on his left and curling an unstoppable shot past Gigi Buffon. Just like the good ol’ days.
DUD: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
For sixty minutes, the 21-year-old makeshift centerback with sparse European experience performed his job flawlessly. But once Bayern secured a 2-0 lead, Juventus ramped up the pressure and forced Kimmich into mistakes that ultimately cost the Germans the win. A bad bounce off his shin led to Juve’s first goal, and Kimmich was a step too late on Stefano Sturaro’s equalizer. Mark it down as a tough learning experience for a promising young player.
STUD: Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
The beleaguered midfielder produced one of his best performances this season and made amends for missing a close-range sitter with a brilliant curling finish to seal Man City’s 3-1 win against overmatched Dynamo Kiev. Toure was nearly flawless on the night â as evidenced by his 98% passing success rate (Source: WhoScored) â and was one the key figures that pushed the Citizens closer to their first-ever quarterfinal berth.