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Pepsi Changemakers: Pivotal instances from the Champions League semi-final first legs

Thiago Alcántara and Karim Benzema feature in our collection of Changemakers from the UEFA Champions League semi-final first legs.

Semi-final first leg Changemakers

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.

Highlights: Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal

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.

Highlights: Man. City 4-3 Real Madrid

"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.