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Courtois and Kankava make big saves

Published: Friday 4 April 2014, 11.09CET salutes our stars of the week, with Club Atlético de Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Birmingham City LFC and lifesaver Jaba Kankava all in podium positions.

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Published: Friday 4 April 2014, 11.09CET

Courtois and Kankava make big saves salutes our stars of the week, with Club Atlético de Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Birmingham City LFC and lifesaver Jaba Kankava all in podium positions.

Player: Thibaut Courtois (Club Atlético de Madrid)
A users' Team of the Year 2013 nominee, 21-year-old Courtois gave a career-defining display during Tuesday's 1-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg draw at FC Barcelona. The Belgium custodian kept Atlético's Spanish title rivals at bay almost single-handedly with impeccable handling and positioning as well as some remarkable stops. Alive to Sergio Busquets's meaty half-volley, his outstanding moment came when showcasing his extraordinary anticipation and agility to fly to his left and paw Andrés Iniesta's whipped shot past the upright – though his save from Lionel Messi's late free-kick was special too. "We defended well," said Courtois, last season's Zamora Trophy recipient with just 29 goals conceded in 37 Liga games. "It is a pity – I got a touch to Neymar's goal but didn't quite get enough on it."

Goals: Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain)
Diego's opener in Atlético's tussle with Barça was technically a more elegant finish, but given the significance of Pastore's fine low strike from a tight angle at the death against Chelsea FC on Wednesday – which made it 3-1 to Paris in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg – the Rouge et Bleu attacking midfielder has the edge. "Javier's goal was fantastic," beamed coach Laurent Blanc, while the 24-year-old Argentinian international added: "I'm happy because I scored a very important goal and because this 3-1 win is a good result."

Team: Birmingham City LFC
Arsenal LFC beat Birmingham City four times in 2013 but the Blues got their revenge in the UEFA Women's Champions League this week – winning 2-0 away last Sunday to complete a 3-0 aggregate victory and reach the semi-finals of Europe's top women's club competition at the second attempt. Those two clean sheets were no small achievement for a young side largely composed of local talent. "[We were] playing against two [FIFA Women's] World Cup winners [Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga], Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey, Dani Carter – those are some of the best players in the world, let alone Europe," manager David Parker told "And we've had a 16-year-old, an 18-year-old, a couple of 23-year-olds keep them out."

"Over the last few days my phone has been ringing constantly. Everybody has been thanking me and calling me a hero. I don't consider myself a hero. I just did what you have to do in that situation. If anyone else were in my place, they would have done the same. I was just closer to Oleh than everyone else."
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's Georgia midfielder Jaba Kankava after clearing the airwaves of Oleh Gusev during last Sunday's Ukrainian Premier League game, the FC Dynamo Kyiv captain having swallowed his tongue after colliding with Dnipro keeper Denys Boyko. "That immediate intervention saved his life," said Dynamo team doctor Leonid Myronov.

An ominous statistic for Manchester United FC after their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg with FC Bayern München at Old Trafford; in all 11 of the UEFA competition ties in which Bayern have drawn 1-1 in the first leg away from home, they have gone on to win.

Hospital visit: Olger Merkaj (Albania)
UC Sampdoria youngster Merkaj's chances of making his debut for Albania during last week's UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round mini-tournament in the Czech Republic were ruined when he was rushed from the team hotel to have an emergency appendectomy. Come last Saturday, though, he received a surprise visit from the captains of all four competing teams to cheer him up no end. "In the end, it is all about fair play and respect," said Albania skipper Keidi Bare, with midfielder Merkaj adding: "I was operated on when the other players were doing their warm-up for the first game. So when the UEFA delegate arrived last weekend with four players behind him I was really surprised. I was really very happy."

Get well soon: Phillip Cocu (PSV Eindhoven)
Time also to send European football's best wishes to PSV coach Phillip Cocu, who has been forced to step down from his job temporarily after successful surgery to remove a tumour from his back. The 43-year-old had the operation on 27 March, with his assistant coach Ernest Faber taking charge while he recovers. "Obviously we wish him a fast and good recovery," said PSV technical director Marcel Brands. "Knowing Phillip, he will do all he can to be back as soon as possible." Faber added: "We all have the motivation to keep performing for Phillip."

Feet-up time: Marinos Satsias (APOEL FC)
APOEL's longest-serving player Marinos Satsias this week called time on his 19-year career, which has brought him 20 trophies in Cyprus – and 65 national-team caps. The holding midfielder joined the Nicosia club in 1995, with precise passing and heroic work-rate key to the 35-year-old's successes. His personal highlight was getting to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 2011/12, when his side lost out to Real Madrid CF. "It was a feeling I believe none of us will experience again," Satsias remembered. "None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams we would be playing in the quarter-finals of the Champions League."

Poissons d'Avril: Évian Thonon Gaillard FC
Not too many April Fools' Day stunts this year, but kudos to Ligue 1 team Évian for their noble attempt. On Monday, they published on their website a story saying coach Pascal Dupraz had been suspended for one month for wearing a non-club-branded woolly hat. "Players and coaches have to wear standard kit, and this was not the case with the snow hat he wore on 28 February against Nantes [2-0 home win]. The disciplinary committee has thus decided to ban Dupraz from the bench for one month. Assistant Stéphane Bernard will step up as interim coach." Nice effort.

Last updated: 04/04/14 15.48CET