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Messi magic, Tibetan goats and bibs for flags

Published: Friday 9 March 2012, 9.30CET
A grudging exception is made for FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi as boils up seven days of top footballing stories into a nutritious news gruel: warning, may contain goats.

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Published: Friday 9 March 2012, 9.30CET

Messi magic, Tibetan goats and bibs for flags

A grudging exception is made for FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi as boils up seven days of top footballing stories into a nutritious news gruel: warning, may contain goats.

Lionel Messi: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) made a resolution to try and look beyond Messi for the Player of the Week slot at the start of 2012; however, five goals in a 7-1 win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen – a UEFA Champions League record – means he gets this one-off appearance as winner of the inaugural Lionel Messi of the Week award. "I have always said that it's fantastic when things come off for you like tonight and you play well," the 24-year-old told, underselling an achievement that sent Europe into raptures. "If he wants to, he'll score six one day," added his coach Josep Guardiola.

Mortal player: Dionisos Chiotis (APOEL FC)
Messi hogged Thursday's headlines but, in Nicosia at least, goalkeeper Chiotis was his equal, after saving penalties from Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos as APOEL beat Olympique Lyonnais to become the first Cypriot side to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition. "The eighth wonder," wrote local newspaper Goal. "I feel joy and relief," Chiotis told "We've achieved something no one thought possible at the start of the season." The word in Greece is that he could yet add to the lone cap he won in 2002, as Fernando Santos explores his options for UEFA EURO 2012. Chiotis turns 35 on 4 June – will he be celebrating in Poland?

Team: Arsenal FC
"Rubbish one minute, world beaters the next," wrote The Telegraph on Wednesday morning after Arsenal came close to overturning a 4-0 first-leg deficit against AC Milan, taking a 3-0 lead into the interval. Tomáš Rosicky was the star of a first-half onslaught, with Robin van Persie going closest to hitting a fourth after the break, chipping against Christian Abbiati's hopeful, outstretched hands when logic might have willed him, in the words of the Daily Mail, to "put his foot hard through the back of the ball?" "It's probably worse to come so close and not go through," defender Kieran Gibbs told "It hurts, but we did ourselves proud."

Goal: Rodrigo Tello (FC Barcelona)
Usually a player scoring twice on his European debut would be king for a day; 20-year-old Tello's achievement in scoring his side's other two against Leverkusen, however, was all but overlooked. His first – barely two minutes after coming on as a substitute – caught the eye, though. Tello said: "A night like that is what everyone in the world dreams of – not only making your debut in the Champions League with the best team in the world but hitting two goals as well."

Number: 6
This season's Dutch title race is offering unrelieved tension and surprise twists on a par with a South American soap opera, and FC Twente's 6-2 win at leaders PSV Eindhoven was one of the most unexpected plot lines yet. No club had previously scored six goals in a league game at the PSV Stadion – though FC Wageningen beat the hosts 6-1 there in the Dutch Cup on 21 December 1977. Twente boss Steve McClaren, who side played most of the second period with ten men, was in dreamland with his side 4-0 up at the break. "Our first half was one of the best I ever saw," he said. "Drama and quality; this match had everything."

"As my son says: 'Dad, you're always on the short lists and always end up falling short.'"
Olympique de Marseille coach and former Chelsea FC player Didier Deschamps cheerily shrugs his shoulders after not being offered the Stamford Bridge job following André Villas-Boas's dismissal

Nothing to declare but his genius: Rafael Benítez
UEFA Champions League-winning manager Benítez followed in the footsteps of actor Al Pacino, U2 frontman Bono and model Naomi Campbell this week as he was honoured by Trinity College's University Philosophical Society in Dublin. The former Valencia CF, Liverpool FC and FC Internazionale Milano boss received a gold medal of honorary patronage for his outstanding contribution to sport. Reminded of former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann's assertion that Benítez was a "genius", the 51-year-old chuckled: "Didi was a great player and he's obviously very clever."

Official blackout: FC Steaua Bucureşti v FC Astra II
Romanian giants Steaua were left in an embarrassing situation on Wednesday after no referees turned up for their friendly with second division side Astra. Steaua coaching assistant Gabriel Mărgărit therefore took charge, with goalkeeping coach Costică Dumitru and Astra assistant boss Adrian Ene running his lines. Neither had flags, but improvised with bibs, and Ene proved to be particularly eagle-eyed; his offside decisions chalked off two Mihai Costea goals for Steaua in a 1-1 draw.

Goats led by donkey: SSC Napoli
Napoli have won five games in a row in all competitions and the achievements of Walter Mazzarri's team inspired the owners of Naples zoo. This week they named 11 Tibetan goats after Partenopei players, while a newborn donkey was called 'Pocho' in honour of Ezequiel Lavezzi, who has scored five goals in his last four games with Napoli. "We hope the whole team come to visit these animals," said Francisco Emilio Borrelli, the zoo's regional commissioner. "We're all Lavezzi fans here."

They also served: Vyacheslav Hleb (FC Gomel), Miroslav Stoch (Fenerbahçe SK) & Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham FC)
All three might have been players of the week at quieter times, but let their achievements go on record. Hleb – younger brother of Aleksandr – scored both goals as Gomel beat champions FC BATE Borisov 2-0 in the Belarusian Super Cup. Stoch also struck twice against Gençlerbirligi SK at the weekend, the first a stinging volley he labelled "the best goal of my career." Pogrebnyak, meanwhile, took his tally to five goals in three games for Fulham with a hat-trick against Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, telling he was coming to terms with the English game: "Sometimes I end up with my tongue hanging out, desperate for a rest, but I'm getting used to it."

Last updated: 05/12/13 9.22CET

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