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Champions League Awards: Breathtaking Benzema and Foden comes to the fore

Our Champions League awards honour the best – and worst – of the midweek European action.

Moment of the Week

Pep Guardiola came up against his footballing antithesis as Atletico Madrid arrived at the Etihad this week, the Spanish side no strangers to the dark arts and taking pride in spoiling spectacles.

Diego Simeone’s side were full of the defensive discipline that has defined their game across the past decade, two deep lines frustrating Manchester City for much of the contest.

The tightest of games had appeared to be heading towards a favourable goalless conclusion for Atletico, before Phil Foden came off the bench to hand the home side a crucial advantage.

It took less than 80 seconds for Foden to create the match-winning moment, his close control attracting a group of Atletico defenders before finding a perfect pass between the legs of Reinildo to free Kevin De Bruyne for the game’s only goal.

Foden’s intervention was both timely and vital, the 21-year-old coming to the fore when his side needed it most.

Player of the Week

No prizes for guessing this selection, following another masterclass from the quite brilliant Karim Benzema.

Benzema has long been an elite talent, but his game has benefitted from the lead status he has commanded at Real Madrid since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure.

There is now a strong argument that the 34-year-old is the most influential footballer in the game, a complete centre-forward who has married a career-best season in front of goal with cute approach play and combinations.

Benzema scored a stunning hat-trick as Real Madrid won 3-1 at Chelsea on Wednesday evening, moving to 37 goals for the season in all competitions and becoming just the fourth player to score consecutive Champions League hat-tricks.

His first two goals were headers of outrageous quality, the first an audacious effort after meeting Vinicius Junior’s cross before caressing a second past Edouard Mendy for his second.

In between, there were Zidane-esque moments of close control under pressure, with Chelsea unable to pick up the intelligent movement of a footballer already compiling quite the case for the 2022 Ballon d’Or.

Goal of the Week

Take your pick from Karim Benzema’s first-half brace at Chelsea, two headers of the very highest quality from the France international.

His first, however, was something truly out of the ordinary.

A sharp one-two with Vinicius Junior was followed with a burst forward to meet the Brazilian’s cross, as Benzema powered home the opening goal of the game from just inside the area.

Save of the week

Chelsea know better than most the talents of Thibaut Courtois, with the Belgium international having spent four seasons as the west London side’s number one.

Courtois – who won two Premier League titles with Chelsea – was booed on his return to Stamford Bridge, but had the last laugh as Real Madrid secured a first leg advantage.

The 29-year-old produced an exceptional save to ensure Real’s lead remained at two goals ahead of the return leg, diving full length to tip away a fierce drive from former teammate Cesar Azpilicueta.

Stat of the Week

Villarreal battled to beat Bayern Munich at El Madrigal this week, with the Yellow Submarine well worth their 1-0 win in Spain.

Unai Emery’s side were regarded as firm outsiders ahead of the quarter-finals and in Bayern faced one of the favourites to win the Champions League this season.

The Spanish side produced a display full of determined defending and energy to give themselves a lead to protect in Munich, their clean sheet ending Bayern’s run of having scored in 30 consecutive Champions League games.

Defeat was also Bayern’s first in an away Champions League fixture since losing 3-0 at Paris Saint-Germain in September 2017.

Quote of the Week

Kevin De Bruyne was less than impressed with Atletico Madrid’s negative tactics at the Etihad, criticising the Spanish side’s lack of ambition at Manchester City.

Despite admitting most sides set up to frustrate City, De Bruyne conceded that Atletico’s defensive tactics reached an entire new level this week.

Donkey of the Week

Chelsea had been second best throughout in the first half of their defeat to Real Madrid, but a Kai Havertz header had given the west Londoners a lifeline just before the break.

Just seconds into the second half, however, it was 3-1 to the visitors after a calamitous defensive mix-up. Edouard Mendy sold Antonio Rudiger short with a woeful pass, allowing Karim Benzema to nip in and steal his hat-trick.

Rudiger’s challenge was poor and unconvincing, but Mendy’s basic error was a nightmare moment for the goalkeeper and leaves the holders staring down the barrel of a Champions League exit.

Read – Five of the best players to play for Chelsea and Real Madrid

Read Also – Iconic Performances: Messi’s four-goal demolition of Arsenal at the Camp Nou

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