Player: Ivica Olić (FC Bayern München)
It has not been the most enjoyable of seasons for the striker, warming the bench and watching Mario Gomez hit the headlines every week while regularly reading speculation about his possible summer departure from the Fußball Arena München. Given only his fourth start of the season this week, as Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes rested Gomez for the second leg against Olympique de Marseille, Olić did his job with style and professionalism.
The lively Croatian international vindicated his selection with a fine performance, scoring a first-half double that quickly assuaged any fears of a Marseille comeback. "Today it was me and next time it will be someone else," said Olić afterwards.
Team: APOEL FC
After a 3-0 first-leg defeat at home against Real Madrid CF, the Cypriot champions' fairy-tale UEFA Champions League run seemed certain to come to an end, and so it did when Madrid scored twice more in the first half of Wednesday's return. APOEL were not expecting to win at the Santiago Bernabéu, however; their 4,000 fans had travelled to what the Cypriot press dubbed "the temple of football" to see their team play for pride and they were amply rewarded in the second half, as first Gustavo Manduca and then Esteban Solari got their names on the scoresheet against the nine-time European club champions.
"We leave with our heads held high knowing that we gave our all. Our achievement is cause for great pride for this club and for everyone in Cyprus. The dream is over but what better way to end it than against a team like Madrid, who may well turn out to be the champions," Solari told UEFA.com as his team, after a nine-month journey which included several high-profile scalps, finally bowed out.
Goal: Kaká (Real Madrid CF)
Madrid managed several delectable goals as they sauntered into the semi-finals, the pick their sumptuous second. Kaká, a first-leg scorer against APOEL, repeated the feat with an immaculate curling effort from outside the area, finding the far corner beyond Urko Pardo's dive. "That was probably one of the most beautiful goals I've ever scored," the delighted Brazilian told UEFA.com.
Lionel Messi is a name with which some readers may find familiar. Not content with breaking all manner of goalscoring records for FC Barcelona this season, the Argentinian set upon Europe in midweek. His two penalties aginst AC Milan set a new mark for goals in a single UEFA Champions League campaign and equalled José Altafini's 14-goal all-time European Cup record for Milan, set back in 1962/63. "All I care about the two goals was that they went in and I helped the team achieve our target," was the record breaker's modest reaction.
Two Lionel Messis
French Ligue 2 side Angers SCO are surely guaranteed promotion next season, having set their sights on signing Lionel Messi this summer. This Messi, however, has some way to go before matching his Barcelona namesake – it is Youlouse-Fontaines Club's 17-year-old defensive midfielder Lionel Messi Nyamsi.
"I asked him if it was his real name, he told me yes," said Angers' bemused chief scout Axel Lablatinière. Rated as a good prospect, there is certainly a chance that Nyamsi could one day end up in the UEFA Champions League. Headline writers everywhere quiver with barely-suppressed excitement.
"Directly after the match Mario sent me a compliment, but it was not a simple SMS – he filmed a video with some of his Bayern team-mates!"
Mario Gomez was clearly happy with VfB Stuttgart's Christian Gentner for hitting the late equaliser against Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Mile high club
Olympiacos FC defeated Panetolikos FC 1-0 last Sunday to secure their 39th league title so unsurprisingly there was a party atmosphere on their flight to OFI Crete FC for Wednesday's Greek Cup match. The pilot, a big fan, told the passengers: "Congratulations to the Olympiacos team. Here's a quiz for you: This is flight 3924 to Heraklion. Whoever first tells me what these numbers represent wins a free trip."
Most were stumped until team captain Vassilis Torossidis piped up: "39 leagues and 24 cups won by Olympiacos." Giannis Maniatis won the prize, however, after contacting the pilot directly by the flight attendants' intercom and giving him Torossidis' answer.
New balls please
Retirement is one of the most common themes in interviews with footballers getting past their prime. Most wince at the very thought of a life without the beautiful game and for many, jobs in coaching or management beckon. But for others, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Bixente Lizarazu and actor/social activist/New York Cosmos director Eric Cantona, such predictable careers are the last thing on their minds.
Following in their footsteps is the wonderfully-named Scottish pool player Kevin Twaddle. The former Motherwell FC and Heart of Midlothian FC winger swapped footballs for cue balls back in 2004 and is arguably better on the felt than he ever was on grass, having recently been called up to represent his country.
In the blood
Jason Byrne's goal for Bray Wanderers FC at Cork City FC last week did not just earn his side a 1-1 FAI League of Ireland Premier Division draw. It was the 182nd league goal of Byrne's 12-year career and put him level with legend Pat Morley in second place in Ireland's all-time goalscorers' charts.
The overall record of league goals (235) is held by 1970s star Brendan Bradley and may never be beaten, but Byrne, who has also had spells with Shelbourne FC, Bohemian FC, Dundalk FC and Cardiff City FC, plans to carry on scoring. "I don't think I will be able to reach 235 but my aim now is to get to 200," says Byrne, a cousin of Republic of Ireland captain – and his country's 53-goal top scorer – Robbie Keane.
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