The latest round of Champions League action saw Manchester City and Tottenham secure their qualification for next year’s knock-out stages, though there is still work to be done for Chelsea and Liverpool with both sides needing results in their final group game.
Elsewhere Robert Lewandowski continued his fine start to the season, whilst competition contenders Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain played out an entertaining draw at the Bernabeu.
Here are five players who smashed it on Champions League Matchday 5…
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich
Who else but the Bayern Munich forward to kick off this particular feature?
The Polish international has long been lauded amongst the world’s finest forwards, though the 31-year-old seems to have elevated his game to a whole new level this current season, his goalscoring exploits verging on the ridiculous.
Lewandowski would help himself to a four-goal haul in just 14 minutes and 31 seconds as a hapless Red Star Belgrade were dismantled by the Bundesliga champions, becoming just the second player in the competition’s history to score four or more goals on more than one occasion and joining an exclusive list of players to have scored three or more Champions League hat-tricks.
It’s now 10 Champions League goals in just five appearances this season, whilst the forward has scored a barely believable 31 goals already before December.
Lewandowski this week claimed he’s addicted to scoring goals, and it’s an addiction he is more than happy to fulfil.
Harry Kane – Tottenham
Joining Bayern Munich in the last-16 are Spurs, who secured their place as runners-up to the German giants in Group B courtesy of a stunning comeback win against Olympiakos at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Jose Mourinho’s side found themselves two goals down in the opening 19 minutes, only to mount a superb fightback to secure a 4-2 victory and their place in the knock-out stages.
Key to their fortunes was England captain Kane, who fired a second-half double to make it six Champions League goals for the season already. The 26-year-old’s brace also saw him eclipse a long-standing Alessandro Del Piero record, becoming the fastest player in the tournament’s history to reach 20 goals, achieving the feat in just 24 appearances.
Emil Forsberg – Red Bull Leipzig
Red Bull Leipzig will be in the draw for the Champions League last-16, the Bundesliga side securing their passage to the knock-out stages for the first time in their history courtesy of late, late drama in an eventful tie with Benfica in Germany.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side knew a point would secure their place in the next round, but fell two goals down to bottom-placed Benfica in a tight Group G.
With time running out the club were awarded a lifeline in the final minute, Swedish international Emil Forsberg firing home a penalty following a foul on Patrik Schick.
Not done there, Leipzig continued to push for an equaliser and in the sixth minute of stoppage time it arrived, Forsberg meeting Timo Werner’s cross to head home and send Leipzig through in dramatic fashion.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona
The milestones continue to be reached for the Barcelona superstar, who celebrated his 700th appearance for the club with a typically magical display to secure their qualification to the knock-out stages as group winners.
Messi would be at the heart of the Catalan side’s destruction of Borussia Dortmund at the Camp Nou, playing in Luis Suarez for their first before combining with the Uruguayan to cap his milestone appearance with a goal.
Another perfectly weighted pass would release Antoine Griezmann for Barcelona’s third, Dortmund defender Mats Hummels describing Messi as the greatest player he has ever seen following another perfect performance.
Hakim Ziyech – Ajax
Hakim Ziyech would become a name familiar with European football fans following Ajax’s run to the semi-finals last season, and the Moroccan has continued where he left off with a series of effortless displays in this season’s competition.
Ziyech was once again the architect as Ajax took a giant stride towards the last-16, scoring one and creating another as the Dutch champions beat Lille 2-0 in France.
The playmaker’s tricky feet and dangerous delivery make him a huge threat for Erik ten Hag’s side, his continued fine performances leaving many to question why he wasn’t seriously targeted by Europe’s biggest clubs last summer.