Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League threw up healthy victories for FC Barcelona, Arsenal FC and Valencia CF, so picking out one side for special praise proved an impossible task. Welcome, therefore, to the Player Rater team of the week which features players from 11 different clubs.
Player: Artjoms Rudņevs (KKS Lech Poznań)
Away from home against a team with the European pedigree of Juventus, Lech could have been forgiven for focusing on damage limitation. For the Polish side, and Rudņevs in particular, that was far from the case: they secured a dramatic 3-3 draw in Turin thanks to the 22-year-old Latvian's hat-trick goal in the second minute of added time.
Goal: Tino Costa (Valencia CF)
Valencia may have run away as 4-0 winners in the end, but it was midfielder Costa who got the ball rolling in emphatic fashion. Just 16 minutes into his UEFA Champions League debut, the 25-year-old Argentinian unleashed a rocket shot from fully 35 metres that left Bursaspor goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov grasping at thin air.
Quote: Martin Jol (AFC Ajax)
"This match was men against boys. Luckily we had Maarten Stekelenburg standing strong, and that is why it was only 2-0 in the end."
Jol reflects on a one-sided defeat by José Mourinho's Real Madrid CF.
Number: 40 (Aris Thessaloniki FC)
The number of years the Greek side have gone without defeat at home in UEFA competition. Aris beat UEFA Europa League holders Club Atlético de Madrid 1-0 in their Group B opener and have not lost on home soil since Chelsea FC managed a 1-1 draw on 16 September 1970, the date of their UEFA home debut.
Man meets machine
The likes of Lionel Messi, Cesc Fàbregas and Nicolas Anelka took centre stage as Europe's premier club competition returned, yet soon there could be a new contender on the scene. The RoboCup international robot soccer competition has, according to Claude Sammut – an author in the field of robotic advances – created the prospect of machine triumphing over man: "RoboCup aims, by the year 2050, to develop a team of fully autonomous robots that can win against the human world champions".
Top of the table
Malta's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign may have got off to a slow start but the island's football fraternity have nevertheless caused a stir elsewhere – as World Table Football Champions. Italy went to Rain, Germany, looking for a tenth successive title but it was Malta who prevailed, much to the delight of captain Mark Gauci: "I'd like to pay tribute to the bold efforts of all the players who made this dream come true, especially those behind the scenes."
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