Champions League 2012: Studs and Duds from Wednesday's Group Stage Action
Here's one way to sum up Wednesday's Champions League action: Perennial favorite Barcelona lost 2-1 to Celtic in an unthinkable upset....and it wasn't the biggest news of the day.
Actually, it wasn't even close.
That honor goes to Chelsea's last-second goal against Shakhtar that allowed the defending champions to keep their Group E fate in their own hands.
Wednesday's eight-game fixture was given the unenviable task of quelling our insatiable Champions League appetite until November 20th. And although the odds were––and always are––stacked against that happening, the day provided more than enough drama to hold us over for 13 days.
Let's take a look at who did and didn't show up for their squads when they were needed the most.
Stud: GK Fraser Forster, Celtic
The towering 24-year-old Brit came up huger than his 6'5'' frame on Wednesday, shutting down the explosive Barcelona attack until extra time in the second half.
Although Barca held the ball for an absurd 84 percent of the game, and fired a veritable fusillade of shots (25, to be exact) in his direction, Forster held firm on Celtic's back line, refusing to let Messi & Co. on the board. A 70th-minute stonewalling of Lionel Messi, in particular, stands out as a symbol of Forster's brilliance.
Forster even added an assist, launching the ball downfield past a woeful attempted clearance by Xavi, onto the foot of 18-year old Tony Watt, who buried what would ultimately be the deciding goal.
Dud: GK Victor Valdes, Barcelona
On the other side of the field, Valdes offered the perfect juxtaposition for Forster's expertise.
If the best defense is a good offense, Barcelona's 84 percent advantage in possession is the best defense a keeper can ask for.
In their 16 percent possession, Celtic was only able to muster up two shots on goal––both of which ended up in the back of the net.
Valdes has one of the easiest starting gigs in sports, rivaled only by _______ and _______. Barcelona doesn't ask him to do much, just that he discard the anomalous shot that he might have to face. On Wednesday, he wasn't able to do that even one time.
Stud: ST Victor Moses, Chelsea
The 21-year-old striker was clutch beyond his years against Shakhtar, coming off the bench as a late substitute and hammering home the game-winner in added time.
The win moved Chelsea into a seven-point tie with their Ukrainian opponent, while the dangerous Juventus lurking behind them. A draw would have seen Chelsea finish the day in third, with serious work to do should they plan on advancing past the group stage.
Moses, who represented England at every youth level before deciding to play for his native Nigeria at the senior level, has struggled to make too big of an impact in his first year since leaving Wigan Athletic.
But even if the bright future ahead of him doesn't pan out as planned, he will now be forever enshrined in Chelsea lore.
Dud: Estadio Municipal de Braga, Braga
Alan smashed home a penalty in the 49th minute that had SC Braga on the verge of holding onto a massive home upset over Manchester United.
And then the lights went out.
The stadium's floodlights malfunctioned, causing a 15-minute delay, which not only allowed United players to rest, but also allowed a prime occasion for Sir Alex Ferguson to start tinkering with his substitutes.
Eventually, Ferguson found the lineup that worked best, and substitute Robin van Persie equaled things in the 80th minute. The seal was broken by that point, as subsequent goals by Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez ensured a United victory.
Braga now sits at the bottom of the Group H table, when a win or draw would have had them either in, or tied for second. So much for home-field advantage....
Stud: ST Claudio Pizarro, Bayern Munich
This could go to the entire Bayern Munich attack, who blitzkrieged French side Lille with five goals in the first 33 minutes. The onslaught couldn't have come at a better time, vaulting them out of a tie with BATE Borisov (who lost to Valencia) in Group F, and giving them a decisive advantage in goal differential.
And although everyone played great, it was Pizarro, who racked up a hat-trick in the first third of the game, whose deft finishing touch really stood out.
The 34-year-old Peruvian is no stranger to massive games for The Reds, having excelled for them from 2001-2007. Now back in tow after a year with Chelsea, and a four-year stint with rival Werder Bremen, Pizarro looks ready to fit right back in with his former club.
That could be a scary thought for opponents in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
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