Casemiro and the 10 Best Goals of the 2016/17 Champions League so Far
On a dramatic night of Champions League football, Real Madrid's Casemiro won the adulation of the fans—and the first leg for his team—with a stunning strike from range which beat Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
It was perhaps the best of a handful of spectacular efforts as European football got back underway this week after the winter break, but where does it rank among the best in the Champions League this season?
We've looked at every goal scored through all six gameweeks in the group stage and the first of the knock-out matches to bring you the finest strikes, be they individual efforts, team goals or simply amazing hits such as Casemiro's.
A handful of goals are too good to leave out entirely but don't quite make our top 10.
Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal: Tidy footwork, unstoppable arcing shot.
Lorenzo Insigne, Napoli vs. Real Madrid: Long-range, first-time, impeccably placed.
Jesus Corona, FC Porto vs. Leicester City: Thunderous left-foot volley from the centre of the box after a cross.
Cenk Tosun, Besiktas vs. Benfica: Acrobatic sideways mid-air volley.
Luca Zuffi, Basel vs. Paris Saint-Germain: Long distance...but did he mean it?!
Juan Cuadrado, Juventus vs. Lyon: Quick dribbling and a rocket shot into the roof of the net.
Thomas Delaney, F.C. Copenhagen vs. Club Brugge: Half-volley stonker from range.
10. Paulo Dybala, Juventus
We've got a few efforts from range in our top 10, and getting us underway is Juventus star Paulo Dybala.
The Argentinian attacker hammered in this beauty from range against Dinamo Zagreb way back in Gameweek 2 of the group stage as his side romped to a 4-0 victory.
Juve went on to top Group H, while Zagreb were eliminated without a point or even scoring a goal.
9. Thiago, Bayern Munich
On a night when two games produced 10 goals between them, viewers were spoiled between choosing to watch Bayern Munich hammer Arsenal or Real Madrid's win over Napoli.
Those who tuned in to the Bavarian side's win saw two particularly classy efforts; Robben's solo strike didn't quite make our 10, but this team effort did.
The move started quite some time (and distance) before Xabi Alonso's threaded pass was backheeled by Robert Lewandowski into the path of Thiago, who dispatched clinically en route to a 5-1 thrashing of the Gunners.
8. Nelson Semedo, Benfica
Scroll to 1:08 for this goal in particular, but the 3-3 draw between Besiktas and Benfica had a couple of other fine strikes in it too—including one from Cenk Tosun which made our honourable mentions list.
Nelson Semedo's effort is in our top 10, though; a neat piece of control on the turn and a blinding finish into the far top corner left the goalkeeper with absolutely no chance.
Benfica went two up with this goal, and three up soon after, only for the Turkish side to mount an impressive late comeback.
7. Vladlen Yurchenko, Bayer Leverkusen
How do you say "postage stamp" in Ukrainian?
Vladlen Yurchenko continues our rundown with this inch-perfect effort into the top corner on the run, helping his Bayer Leverkusen side dispatch Monaco in Gameweek 6.
It wasn't enough to send B04 top of the group, but they qualified for the last 16 unbeaten in second place in any case, with Monaco top in Group E.
6. Thomas Meunier, PSG
The goal in question starts at 0:40 on the video, but before that comes another stonker—Luca Zuffi's goal from our honourable mentions. Decide for yourself if he intended it as a shot!
In any case, Thomas Meunier won the game for PSG thereafter, with the right-back casually looping in a volley from the edge of the box which found the top corner. In the last minute. To win the game 2-1.
Pretty good timing.
5. Gareth Bale, Real Madrid
Sometimes it takes a wonder goal to light up a game, but Gareth Bale wasn't hanging about when he scored this scorcher earlier in the season.
The Real Madrid man found the net inside the first minute of the game, played in eerie surroundings thanks to Legia Warsaw having to play behind closed doors.
It's a shame so few were there to witness the game; Legia rallied after Bale's stunner and took the lead before Real fought back for a 3-3 draw.
4. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
Fantastic team goals and long-range strikes take pride of place, but there's something special about a solo goal.
Mesut Ozil has provided the pick of this season's individual moments of brilliance, scoring here for Arsenal in a 3-2 win over Ludogorets, winning the match late on with this strike.
The 'keeper was left for dead and two defenders sent sprawling in their efforts to block off the German, who kept his cool to net.
3. Angel Di Maria, PSG
Not many onlookers will forget Paris Saint-Germain's dismantling of Barcelona in a hurry.
The French side had several stand-out performers, but Angel Di Maria was somewhere near the top of that list with his constant running, pressure on the ball...and two great goals into the bargain.
It's his second we're ranking in third, not just for his body swerve past Andres Iniesta and curling shot into the far corner, but for the entire team build-up. It started with a goal kick played short to the edge of PSG's own area and flowed the length of the pitch before ending in Barca's net.
2. Kamil Glik, Monaco
There are certain players you turn to when you need a goal in desperate circumstances: the playmaker, the star centre-forward, the big target man off the bench perhaps.
What you don't usually expect is the giant central defender to conjure up a moment of clinical brilliance, executed to perfection with almost the last kick of the game.
Step forward Kamil Glik, who rescued a 1-1 draw for AS Monaco with this utterly unstoppable, top-corner humdinger in the 94th minute of the game against Bayer Leverkusen.
Even better: Monaco finished one point above the Germans, top of the group.
1. Casemiro, Real Madrid
And first place goes to Casemiro, for his unbelievable strike against Napoli in the last 16.
Of all the players available for Real Madrid—Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema—it's the Brazilian defensive midfielder who must have been least expected to come up with something as fiery, accurate and spectacular as his thunderous volley was.
Full on the volley, right into the far corner and giving Madrid a very handy lead for the second leg, Casemiro is our best goal of the Champions League this season...so far, at least, but there's plenty more to come.