Pepsi Changemakers: Pivotal instances from the Champions League semi-final first legs
Monday, 2 May 2022
Thiago Alcántara and Karim Benzema feature in our collection of Changemakers from the UEFA Champions League semi-final first legs.
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UEFA Champions League Changemakers, brought to you by Pepsi, picks out the pivotal instances that proved decisive in shifting the momentum in the semi-final first legs.
Changemakers: Semi-final first legs
Thiago passes Villarreal into submission (Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal)
Benzema swings momentum for Madrid (Man. City 4-3 Real Madrid)
Thiago passes Villarreal into submission
Such is Thiago Alcántara's form at the moment that he didn't so much unlock Villarreal's well-fortified defensive door at Anfield as glide in unnoticed, slip into a silk robe and pour himself a glass of rioja before settling in front of the fire. "For 90 minutes, the pitch was like his playground," purred the UEFA Technical Observer panel.
The statistics back that up. Against Villarreal, he completed 99 of the 103 graceful passes he attempted, completed nine long balls, won 100% of tackles and made five interceptions. He also hit the woodwork with a sumptuous effort and launched the move that brought the opening goal with a sway of the hips Elvis himself would have been proud of. Salud!
Benzema swings momentum for Madrid
Real Madrid were tip-toeing along the precipice for a time at Manchester City. The English side were 2-0 up in no time and there was no let-up as chance after chance came and went. Another goal would surely have pushed the visitors over the edge but, instead, Karim Benzema hauled them back to relative safety with a brilliant understated volley.
"There aren't the words to say what he is doing," remarked partner-in-crime Vinícius Júnior, who scored himself in the second period. Still, Madrid trailed 4-2 in the closing stages when they won a penalty. This was supposed to be Benzema's Achilles heel following two misses from the spot only a week earlier. Would he cope with the pressure? One Panenka later and we had our answer.