Champions League: Anderlecht stuns Arsenal; Young stars make mark
The start of the fourth week of Champions League action saw Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund book their places in the last 16, while Arsenal threw away a 3-0 lead to draw against Anderlecht and Bayer Leverkusen won a vital game away to Zenit St Petersburg to all but secure its place in the knockout phase.
Here's what caught our eye, on a day when young stars rose to the occasion:
Player of the Day: Breel Embolo, FC Basel
Basel needed a convincing win over Ludgorets if it was to have a chance of going through, and it achieved it. The key man in the 4-0 success was the 17-year-old Cameroon-born Switzerland Under-21 international Embolo, who opened the scoring after 34 minutes, chesting down a chipped through ball, holding off Georgi Terziev and slipping in a neat finish.
He was a handful all night, leading the line with invention and aggression, and setting up the third goal for Shkelzen Gashi.
Goal of the Day: Son Heung-Min, Bayer Leverkusen
A 2-1 away win over Zenit St-Petersburg all but guaranteed Bayer Leverkusen’s place in the last 16. It was largely down to one man, the 22-year-old South Korea international Son Heung-Min, who scored both goals. His second was a neat but straightforward goal, Stefan Kiessling slipping the ball through for him to run on, and, showing admirable strength and composure, tuck the ball low past the keeper. But it’s the first that will live in the mind.
True innovation is rare in football these days, but Leverkusen showed it when awarded a free-kick 40 yards out. Hakan Calhanoglu played the ball forward to Karim Bellarabi on the edge of the box, and he touched it back for Son to curl a shot from just outside the box inside Yuri Lodygin’s left-hand post:
Turning-Point Moment of the Day: Juventus strikes back, leaves door open
Twenty minutes into the second half in Turin, Olympiakos led Juventus 2-1 and looked on course for a win that would have taken it through to the last 16. But then a Fernando Llorente header hit the post, bounced back onto the shin of the goalkeeper Roberto and dribbled over the line. It was an extremely fortunate goal, but within a minute Paul Pogba had given Juventus the lead.
The Italian champion held on to win, pulling level with Olympiakos on six points, three adrift of the group-leading Atletico Madrid, which won 2-0 in Malmo, but there was a further twist as Arturo Vidal missed a late penalty. As a result, Olympiakos retained the head-to-head advantage on away goals, which could prove crucial if the sides finish level on points.
Surprise of the Day: Liverpool's lineup
On a day of few shocks, the biggest surprise, perhaps, was Liverpool’s team sheet. Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Mario Balotelli and Philippe Coutinho were all left on the bench for the game away to Real Madrid, presumably with an eye to Saturday’s Premier League game against Chelsea.
The much-weakened team rode its luck and defended relatively well to get away with a 1-0 defeat, and Liverpool will still go through with wins in its final two games, providing it beats Basel by more than one at Anfield.
The Reds also managed to keep Cristiano Ronaldo off the scoresheet, snapping his 12-game goal run and postponing his tying and breaking Raul's Champions League goal mark of 71. Lionel Messi, sitting one behind Ronaldo and two behind Raul, gets a crack at that on Wednesday.
Major Takeaway of the Day: Dortmund is better than its league record
Borussia Dortmund may be second-to-last in the Bundesliga, but it clearly is rather better than that fact suggests. Four wins out of four in the Champions League has taken it through to the last 16, but the more remarkable statistic is that it has scored more goals in those four games than in 10 domestically.
Marco Reus’ return from injury should help on both fronts, and he looked to be approaching his best as he put Dortmund ahead against Galatasaray.
Further goals from Sokratis Papasthopoulos and Ciro Immobile and a Semih Kaya own goal completed a 4-1 win. A point from its final two games will ensure it tops the group.
Late Twist of the Day: Anderlecht's Mitrovic answers critics
Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is only 20, but already in Brussels he has begun to create irritation among those who feel he isn’t as committed as he might be. His arrival from the bench, though, wrought a major transformation on Anderlecht’s game at Arsenal. He is awkward and aggressive, and, when he came on after Anthony vanden Borre had pulled one back against the run of play, he bullied Nacho Monreal, who looked horribly far from his comfort zone in the center.
First he induced the Spaniard to tug his sleeve, conceding a thoroughly needless penalty. Then he got across the near post to head in the equalizer off Andy Najar's cross. All Alexis Sanchez’s fine work of the early stages was undone and Arsenal, feckless and brittle as ever, only drew a game it should have won with ease.