Player: Zlatan Ibrahimović (AC Milan)
Ibrahimović's reputation in England never really matched that of elsewhere after a string of disappointing displays against Premier League teams in UEFA Champions League knockout games. That all changed on Wednesday when the Sweden forward was unstoppable in Milan's 4-0 round of 16 first-leg destruction of Arsenal FC, making two goals before converting a penalty he himself won. "It was a night of great emotion because we won a difficult match with a great result and the side played brilliantly," Ibrahimović told UEFA.com, at the end of a week where the futsal team of which he is president, the eponymously titled FC Ibra, won the Swedish championship to earn a UEFA Futsal Cup bow next season.
Team: Spain futsal
Speaking of the small-sided game, that Spain secured the UEFA European Futsal Championship was not a shock – they had won the previous three editions – but they did it the hard way in Zagreb, trailing Russia with 34 seconds left before Sergio Lozano equalised. The same player struck again two minutes from the end of extra time and Borja's long clearance rolled in as the final buzzer went to secure a 3-1 victory and sixth title overall. "Spain never give up: we always want a little more," said defender Kike, who earned his fifth winner's medal, as did goalkeeper Luis Amado, who the day before talked UEFA.com through the squad, explaining why Álvaro was a "dandy" and Rafael Usín is nicknamed "Sandwich of Batteries".
Goal: Sergei Semak (FC Zenit St Petersburg)
Zenit defeated SL Benfica 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League last 16 on Wednesday and their second goal was the pick, Aleksandr Kerzhakov's back-heel fooling the visiting defence, and Vladimir Bystov finding fellow substitute Semak, whose own deft flick took the ball inside the post, beyond Artur's reach. Semak was modest about his strike, though, saying: "I don't think it was down to my skill as a footballer, it was down to luck."
Quote: Constantinos Charalambides (APOEL FC)
"Four or five years ago, no one could have picked out Cyprus or APOEL on a map of Europe."
Charalambides hails APOEL's achievement in reaching the knockout phase, as well as perhaps underestimating Europe's general level of geographical skills.
That was the number of years since LOSC Lille Métropole had conceded five goals in a league game until Sunday, when the reigning champions suffered a 5-4 home defeat by FC Girondins de Bordeaux to fall 11 points behind Paris Saint-Germain FC. To make matters worse Ludovic Obraniak – who joined Bordeaux from Lille last month – scored a last-gasp winner, his second of the game. "They know I can do things like that," Obraniak said. "Too bad for them."
Debut: Roy Carroll (Olympiacos FC)
In January, former Manchester United FC goalkeeper Carroll moved from OFI Crete FC to Olympiacos for €100,000 as back-up to Balázs Megyeri. Carroll was on the bench on Tuesday when, moments after David Fuster had put Olympiacos into a 71st-minute lead in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg at FC Rubin Kazan, Megyeri was sent off in conceding a penalty. On came Carroll for his debut and with his first touch the 34-year-old saved Bebras Natcho's spot kick for a 1-0 win. It was no fluke, Carroll explaining: "The coaches were talking to both keepers before the game and telling us where he might try and put a penalty."
Seasoned travellers: Daniel Welbeck & Nani (Manchester United FC)
Carroll could yet be up against his former club in the UEFA Europa League as United began their bid to win the trophy for the first time on Thursday with a 2-0 win at AFC Ajax. A couple of players were lucky to make it to Amsterdam, as both Daniel Welbeck and Nani rocked up at Manchester Airport without their passports. Welbeck reportedly put in a call to strike partner Wayne Rooney, who was able to pick up his papers en route, while a minder nipped off to Nani's house and returned just in time for the Portuguese winger to board. An onlooker was quoted as saying: "Nani looked uncomfortable standing alone at check-in but he took it with good humour and posed for pictures with fans."
Sleeping arrangements: FC Schalke 04
Also on their UEFA Europa League travels were Schalke, who drew 1-1 at Czech side FC Viktoria Plzeň. They arrived at the Golden Fish Hotel to discover their rooms only had a sole queen-size bed each, meaning players would have to get unusually close to their room-mates. Hotel stuff responded decisively, sawing the beds in half to transform them into pairs of singles. "The lads may need their accustomed partner at night, but too much cuddling is not good," sporting director Horst Heldt explained.
Miracle worker: Alessandro del Piero (Juventus)
Juve supporter Giada Scalise, 12, was watching the Serie A goals at home on 22 January when she suffered a brain hemoarrhage and slipped into a coma. No progress was being made so her parents turned to her hero, Del Piero, and he obliged by sending audio and video messages, saying: "Hello Giada, this is Alessandro del Piero. I hope you'll wake up and come back to us as soon as possible to watch many of our games." After they were played, Giada came round for the first time in 15 days, moving a hand then asking for her mother. "It was a wonderful thing," said Giada's father Francesco. "We are full of joy and wish to thank him for helping us get our little girl back."
Charitable donation: Michal Kadlec & Manuel Friedrich (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)
So keen was left-back Kadlec to lay his hands on Lionel Messi's shirt, he swapped tops at half-time in Leverkusen's 3-1 defeat by FC Barcelona on Tuesday. Trouble is central defender Freidrich was already on a promise and took said garment off his team-mate, only for Kadlec to bag himself a replacement at the final whistle. Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler was not amused, saying he would have preferred "more focus on the match itself" than scrapping over memorabilia. The former Germany striker added: "I can guarantee that Kadlec and Friedrich will be auctioning off their Messi shirts for charity."
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