Champions League 2013: Best Individual Performances of Tournament Thus Far
The UEFA Champions League has provided us with some stellar performances thus far—both on a team level, but also on an individual level as well.
From the group stage right the way through to the semifinals, the European tournament has shown us why it's the most prestigious club tournament in world football, with several performances stealing the show. In defense, midfield and attack—the Champions League has played host to some truly magnificent performances that we've been fortunate enough to witness.
Read on and see the top individual performances of the UCL thus far.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Manchester City (9/18/12)
We start off here with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who hasn't had a shortage of brilliant performances in the Champions League so far. After all, he is the tournament's leading goalscorer.
Yet out of all his performances, there were none greater than his game at home to Manchester City, where Ronaldo netted the game-winning goal in the final minutes.
In addition to that goal, Ronaldo also chalked up an assist and made three goal-scoring chances for others as well. He finished with a 100 percent pass completion rate (50 passes from 50 attempts), and also had a key six-yard block to his name.
Ronaldo registered 10 shots on Joe Hart's goal and successfully completed a team-high seven dribbles, almost single-handedly winning Madrid the game.
5. Fraser Forster vs. Barcelona (11/7/12)
Celtic appeared to be out of their depth somewhat when they welcomed Barcelona to Scotland for their group-stage match. However, what would transpire over the next 90 minutes absolutely nobody predicted, with Celtic running out 2-1 winners on the night.
And it was all thanks to their goalkeeper, Fraser Forster.
With Barcelona registering a staggering 84 percent possession for the match, they amassed an incredible 25 shots on the Celtic goal—only one of which was able to get past Forster on the night. What's more, they weren't exactly the easiest of saves, with Forster pulling out every possible trick in the bag to keep his beloved Celtic in with a chance against the footballing giants.
His long ball late in the game also became the game-winning assist, with Tony Watt netting in the 83rd minute of the game—just to top off an incredible night.
4. Xavi Hernandez vs. Celtic (10/23/12)
Barcelona might have only recorded a 2-1 victory over Celtic at the Nou Camp, and it might have taken a last-minute goal to Jordi Alba to do so.
However, that should take nothing away from the incredible performance of star midfielder Xavi, who chalked up some simply phenomenal numbers against Celtic.
In his 90 minutes on the pitch, Xavi totaled an unfathomable 198 touches. He completed 184 passes and did so at an astounding 97 percent completion rate. Moreover, he created eight goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates throughout the game, with one of those being taken crucially by Andres Iniesta just before half-time as the Catalan club tried to fight back.
It might have "only" been against Celtic, but these numbers were simply astounding from Xavi, and he deserves recognition for just how good his night was.
3. Burak Yilmaz vs. CFR Cluj
In one of the more underrated performances of the Champions League so far, Burak Yilmaz netted all three goals against CFR Cluj in an away game during the group stage that would have a profound impact on the rest of the European competition.
Galatasaray were winless through their opening three games and tied at 1-1 after Yilmaz had netted the opening goal. However, he would add two more to his total in the second half thanks to some wonderful finishing—leading to an incredible run by the Turkish giants that saw them sneak into the knockout stages of the tournament where they would then upset Schalke in front of their home fans.
They would fall short against Madrid, but none of that would have happened if it weren't for Yilmaz's hat-trick away from home against the Romanian club.
It would be the only time that CFR Cluj conceded three goals in the entire Champions League this year, and it couldn't have come at a better time for Galatasaray.
A criminally underrated performance that turned their season around.
2. Lionel Messi vs. AC Milan (3/12/13)
After being shut out in the first leg against AC Milan, Lionel Messi came to Camp Nou knowing that Barcelona needed an incredible performance from him to win.
They were staring a daunting 2-0 deficit in the face, and given how the Rossoneri had dominated the opening leg, it was going to be very difficult to come back.
Or so we thought.
Messi—operating with next to no space—netted the first goal with a spectacular finish after just five minutes, and soon followed that up with a second effort that brought La Blaugrana back on level terms. He would then play a key role in goals to David Villa and Jordi Alba respectively as Barcelona completed one of the more incredible comebacks in Champions League football.
From completely dominated in the first leg to a rousing victory in the second—all thanks to the brilliance and genius of a man called Messi.
1. Robert Lewandowski vs. Real Madrid (4/24/13)
Yet despite all of the performances seen so far in the Champions League, there have been none greater than Robert Lewandowski's incredible night against Real Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal—netting four goals to give the German side a stunning upset victory over Los Blancos.
Let the weight of the game sink in first—this was a semifinal against Real Madrid.
Lewandowski's four-goal haul then really is a remarkable achievement, with the Polish international becoming the first man to score four goals in a Champions League semifinal and also the first to score four goals against Madrid.
And what brilliant goals they were too.
From dogged determination to brilliant dribbling skills to an emphatically struck penalty, Lewandowski showcased just how dominant he can be at the top of the attack, and showed that Dortmund belong in the final of the 2013 UEFA Champions League.
And thanks to his four goals, that's exactly where they are.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
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