Who shined in this week’s Champions League ties? And who stunk out the joint? FOX Soccer fetes the stars who shone and shames the players who simply didn’t show up. Here are this week’s studs and duds in Europe:
STUD: Edinson Cavani, PSG
Cavani made the best of his short cameo in Paris St. Germain’s tilt against Chelsea, scoring the decisive goal for Laurent Blanc’s side on Tuesday night. The Uruguayan came on the 74th minute, replacing Lucas Moura, and found pay dirt just four minutes later. A beautifully lofted ball from Angel Di Maria found a charging Cavani in the Chelsea box, who fired between Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois’ legs to push the final score to 2-1.
DUD: Domenico Criscito, Zenit
With Zenit seemingly on the verge of settling for a 0-0 draw at Benfica, Criscito — who was already on a yellow — committed an awkward foul on Benfica’s Andre Almeida. The action forced referee Gianluca Rocchi to make a decision, and, harsh or not, he went to the pocket and showed Criscito a second yellow. The 90th-minute sending off and resulting free kick proved crippling for Zenit, as Jonas headed home the looped effort to steal the victory.
STUD: Jonas, Benfica
If one man’s moment of anguish is another man’s moment of triumph, such was the case with Criscito and Jonas. The Zenit man’s sloppy foul gifted Benfica a chance to snatch the victory in stoppage time, and Jonas seized the opportunity. The resultant free kick fired into the box was met by a soaring Jonas, who headed the chance by a sprawling Yuri Lodygin. Jonas picked up a yellow for his exuberant, shirtless celebration but we doubt he’ll mind much.
DUD: Koen Casteels, Wolfsburg
Nobody would blame you if you thought the tie between Gent and Wolfsburg was put the rest by the 60th minute in Wednesday’s first leg. A Julian Draxler brace and a Wolfsburg third from Kruse looked to have the German side a shoo-in for the quarterfinals. Alas, matches are played for a minimum of 90 minutes, a point Wolfsburg’s keeper Casteels and his defense seemingly forgot. Gent raged back to slot two in the 80th and 89th past Casteels, who will certainly feel he (and his teammates, to be fair) could have done better.
STUD: Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Was there any doubt that Ronaldo would back up his Tuesday antics? To Roma’s credit, they held CR7 at bay for a half and change … but the Portuguese was bound and determined to get an away goal in Wednesday’s tie. The footwork he used to set up the strike (which might have gotten a tiny, albeit indifferent deflection) was simply magic. The goal pushed Ronaldo’s career Champions League road tally to 44, which is nine more than any other player. That should keep the gadflies away.
Roma were undeniable underdogs heading into their match against might Real Madrid. Yet the Romans found themselves down just a goal with around 10 minutes to play when a merited penalty shout took place. Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal slid through Alessandro Florenzi in a dangerous position taking the Roma defender out of the play. One could argue that the ball was away, but we think Kravolec missed a penalty in the box. That decision, coupled with Jese’s late strike, puts Roma in quite a predicament heading into the second leg.