Team: Celtic FC
"No one gave us a prayer going into this group," said manager Neil Lennon, who was unable to watch as Kris Commons converted the penalty that secured victory against FC Spartak Moskva on Wednesday and sent Celtic into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages. The Bhoys defied expectations throughout, with emerging talents such as Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster and Tony Watt to the fore. They gained a first away win in the competition, at the 21st attempt, in Moscow on matchday two, before a 2-1 Group G triumph over FC Barcelona at a jubilant Celtic Park. Despite those two results, SL Benfica were second going into the final game, but as they were held by Barça, Commons's strike sparked Celtic joy. For captain Scott Brown, this is just the beginning: "I don't see why we can't go further in the competition."
Goal: Ivan Krstanović (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)
Such was the delirium that followed Krstanović's 95th-minute penalty against FC Dynamo Kyiv in Group A on Tuesday, you could have been mistaken for thinking Dinamo had won the UEFA Champions League. In fact, the forward had just earned the Croatian side their first point in this season's tournament – his goal ending Dinamo's ten-hour drought in UEFA competition – and ensured Modri avoided equalling RSC Anderlecht's unwanted record of 12 successive group stage defeats. Krstanović's celebrations in the snow, shirt above head and mobbed by thrilled team-mates, were a sight to behold. "We all knew the negative records, but we managed to score," said the 29-year-old. "For the penalty, I just took the ball and didn't think too much."
Player: Burak Yılmaz (Galatasaray AŞ)
It was a week Burak is not likely to forget any time soon. On Monday the 27-year-old Turkey striker was named as a nominee in the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2012 and he soon showed why. Against SC Braga on Wednesday, Burak headed in his sixth goal of Cimbom's Group H campaign, in the process scoring in his fourth successive match and becoming the most prolific Turkish marksman in a UEFA Champions League season. The strike was significant, levelling a game the Turkish champions needed to win. Aydın Yılmaz then netted to send Gala into the last 16 for the first time since 2001/02. "Galatasaray still have plenty to say in Europe," warned coach Fatih Terim afterwards. Expect Burak to be the orator.
"What do we take from this Champions League experience? A lot of beatings."
FC Nordsjælland coach Kasper Hjulmand did not pull any punches when assessing his team's group stage campaign in the aftermath of their 6-1 Group E defeat at Chelsea FC.
FC Viktoria Plzeň boss Pavel Vrba marked his 48th birthday by overseeing a 2-2 draw with AC Milan last season, and was hoping for even better as he turned 49 on Thursday – the day of Club Atlético de Madrid's visit to the Czech Republic. The sense of occasion was embraced by the home crowd before kick-off as they held up cards producing a huge mosaic in the coach's honour, and as the match got under way his players delivered the gift he wanted even more than the drill he expected from his wife. The resulting 1-0 victory lifted his team above the UEFA Europa League holders at the Group B summit.
Festive spirit: Manchester City FC
Performance poetry has been fairly peripheral since its dalliance with the mainstream in the 1970s and 1980s, but Aleksandar Kolarov this week proved that performance art is still going strong. He summoned up his inner Gil Scott-Heron as part of Manchester City's online advent calendar, delivering a deadpan version of Jingle Bells that is more likely to keep children cowering under the duvet than rushing to see what is beneath the Christmas tree. The bleak delivery was fitting in what has hardly been a great week (so far) for Roberto Mancini's charges.
Present: Leroy Fer (FC Twente)
Never look a gift horse in the mouth – unless, of course, it is actually a horse and you live in a high-rise apartment. Dutch international Fer this week attended a celebrity auction, as you do; and on observing his girlfriend's interest in a stallion called Django, he brought it for €30,000, as you do. It was a romantic gesture which, the 22-year-old believed, would make a perfect surprise. There was just one s-nag: his girlfriend lives in a block of flats. The midfielder is apparently now on the lookout for a dog or cat.
Omen: Frank de Boer (AFC Ajax)
Tuesday's 4-1 Group D defeat at Real Madrid CF could easily have spelled the end of the road for Ajax in Europe this term – as it was, Manchester City's 1-0 loss at Borussia Dortmund meant the club are headed into the UEFA Europa League round of 32 draw, and potentially a step closer to the final, to be staged at their home stadium – the Amsterdam ArenA – on 15 May. Fate, perhaps. "The Europa League final will be played in the Amsterdam ArenA and on my birthday as well," said Ajax coach Frank de Boer. "What more could I wish for?"
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