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Papal portents, ominous returns, uninvited guest

Published: Friday 15 March 2013, 9.05CET
This week saw divine intervention for FC Barcelona, heavenly nights for Libor Kozák, Hamit Altıntop and Málaga CF, a Samuel Eto'o century, an errant pine marten and French snowman.

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Published: Friday 15 March 2013, 9.05CET

Papal portents, ominous returns, uninvited guest

This week saw divine intervention for FC Barcelona, heavenly nights for Libor Kozák, Hamit Altıntop and Málaga CF, a Samuel Eto'o century, an errant pine marten and French snowman.

Team: FC Barcelona
Talk of the Spanish Liga leaders being in decline proved somewhat awry as they overturned a 2-0 round of 16 first-leg deficit with something to spare, beating AC Milan 4-0 at Camp Nou on Tuesday to roar through to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

"In the first half-hour Barcelona played extraordinarily well," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri. Midfielder Mathieu Flamini perhaps put it most succinctly, telling UEFA.com: "They played unbelievable football."

The Papal Conclave may have had a part in the Catalan side's success: the previous two games Barcelona played during the election of a pope, against Real Madrid CF in 1958 and UD Las Palmas in 1978, also ended in 4-0 wins.

Player: Libor Kozák (S.S. Lazio)
The UEFA Europa League is proving a happy hunting ground for the Czech international forward after his second-leg hat-trick against VfB Stuttgart on Thursday helped the Biancocelesti to a 5-1 aggregate success and quarter-final place. Despite failing to register in 12 Serie A appearances this term, the 23-year-old's treble in the 3-1 round of 16 win in Rome made it eight in eight for the UEFA Europa League's new top scorer.

"It's not like I give less in the league, I always try to give my best, even if something seems to be lacking in Serie A," Kozák said. "There is a lot of competition for places and there are great players ahead of me; that is why, when I get the chance, I try my best. This is my first hat-trick for Lazio and of course I am really happy. I am going to enjoy tonight."

Goal: Hamit Altıntop (Galatasaray AŞ)
Burak Yılmaz went into the record books as the first player to register in seven successive UEFA Champions League matches, but Gelsenkirchen-born Hamit beat him for style.

The 30-year-old had not scored since arriving in Turkey last summer (denied by the woodwork four times) before letting fly a terrific strike from distance to make it 1-1 on the night at FC Schalke 04 on Tuesday; the Istanbul side eventually went through with a 3-2 win in Germany (4-3 overall).

Hamit's restrained celebrations were an indication of his affection for his old club. "On the one hand I was happy, on the other I had to keep quite a few emotions in check," he said afterwards. "I hope the Schalke fans forgive me."

Quote:
"You can't ask for more than what we did today. I'm from Malaga and a lifelong Málaga supporter too. What we've lived through today at La Rosaleda is something quite unique. This memory will stay with us forever."
Málaga CF defender Jesús Gámez feels the excitement after his home-town team got to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with Wednesday's 2-0 victory against FC Porto.

Number: 100
Samuel Eto'o made his 100th UEFA club competition appearance as FC Anji Makhachkala lost 1-0 at Newcastle United FC on Thursday. "I've been lucky enough with my career and with what I've done so far," the former RCD Mallorca, FC Barcelona and FC Internazionale Milano man told UEFA.com.

"I've come back to the beginning of my career by moving to Anji," continued the 32-year-old. "I'm as happy as I was when I started this beautiful job. Records are important for any player, but the most important thing for me is to look at the number of games played and the number of goals scored."

Pitch invader: Pine marten (FC Thun v FC Zürich)
They look like lovely cuddly otters to most of the world, but pine martens are regarded as a nuisance in Switzerland. One certainly caused chaos at a Super League game last Sunday, darting onto the pitch during Thun's 4-0 home defeat by Zürich.

Zürich defender Loris Benito managed to rugby-tackle the creature but dropped it after it bit him on the finger. Visiting goalkeeper David Da Costa then got a firmer grip, handing the animal to stewards as it repeatedly sunk its teeth into his glove.

"In hindsight, I was probably a bit foolish," Benito said at half-time. "You don't know what sort of disease it might be carrying. It was painful." Speaking to UK radio on Tuesday, he announced he was on the mend.

Snowman: Mathieu Dossevi (Valenciennes FC)
A shopping trip to Paris ended up being a camping expedition for Valenciennes forward Dossevi when he and his brother Thomas were trapped in their car by heavy snowfall, 70km from home. "We were surprised by snow on Monday night around 1am," the 25-year-old said.

"Fortunately, I had a bit of petrol left so I could keep the heating going in the car. The annoying thing was that we had nothing to eat and nothing to drink. You start to get really hungry. And it was -15C with wind chill."

The brothers manfully resisted the temptation to try out the car seats during a 26-hour stakeout. "There was nothing but trucks around us," Mathieu added. "There was nothing much to do. If you got too cold or hungry, you could go and look in the trucks to see if there was anything to eat."

Last updated: 04/12/13 6.23CET

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