Best of the UEFA Champions League group stage

Luiz Adriano, Lionel Messi, Francesco Totti and Real Madrid CF rewrote the record books while Breel Embolo had school in the morning: UEFA.com picks the highlights.

The number of records broken in this UEFA Champions League group stage soared well into double figures, and by the end a truly fascinating round of 16 was set, not to mention eight fine challengers sent into the UEFA Europa League.

UEFA.com picks the highlights from 96 great matches that produced 279 goals and some quite unfeasible feats and thrills; relive also the key moments from our Matchday Live commentaries, streamed in our MatchCentre from 19.30CET to 23.30CET every UEFA Champions League night, and enjoy our gallery of the best photos above.

Luiz Adriano on record
Luiz Adriano on record

Player: Luiz Adriano (FC Shakhtar Donetsk)
A forward with a respectable but hitherto unspectacular goal record in Europe, Luiz Adriano rewrote the record books this season. His opening salvo put Shakhtar 2-0 up on FC Porto on matchday two, only for the visitors to snatch a draw, but it was the double-header against FC BATE Borisov that elicited his best form.

In the away game the 27-year-old Brazilian equalled Lionel Messi's record of five goals in a UEFA Champions League match – including four before half-time – in a 7-0 victory, then his hat-trick in the 5-0 home return took Luiz Adriano to a total of nine, equalling Cristiano Ronaldo's mark from last term. If his subsequent blank against Athletic Club and suspension at Porto denied him possible double figures, his exploits had nonetheless taken the Ukrainian champions comfortably into the round of 16.

Young player: Breel Embolo (FC Basel 1893)
One of the pioneers who played in the inaugural UEFA Youth League last term, before aiding Basel to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, Embolo burst onto the UEFA Champions League scene this autumn. The 17-year-old came off the bench against Real Madrid CF, then started the 1-0 defeat of Liverpool FC so crucial to Basel's eventual progress.

It was on his fourth outing that he really shone, breaking the deadlock and supplying another in a 4-0 thrashing of PFC Ludogorets Razgrad. It made him the competition's sixth-youngest scorer – though the next morning he was at school at 8am as always. "I've been told to be there on time, it's an agreement we have to keep," said Embolo.

Totti's thrill
Totti's thrill

Senior player: Francesco Totti (AS Roma)
Totti was netting UEFA club competition goals for Roma before Embolo's birth in 1997 – and he is still going strong. In Roma's second game of the campaign the Giallorossi's attacking talisman overtook Ryan Giggs as the oldest UEFA Champions League scorer with an equaliser at Manchester City FC, then broke his own record by striking at PFC CSKA Moskva aged 38 years and 59 days. "I've said before, I am 38 but I don't feel it," he told UEFA.com after notching against City.

Team: Real Madrid CF
Admittedly Real Madrid are not short of UEFA Champions League records, what with winning their tenth European title last May. But they have stepped up again this time round, their current run of 22 straight victories, that ended with winning the FIFA Club World Cup, started with the group-opening 5-1 dismantling of Basel.

They finished the group phase with only the sixth-ever perfect record, becoming the first club to do so twice after their 2011/12 feat. They also matched the highest group-winning margin of 11 points. And, of course, if it wasn't for a certain Argentinian, Cristiano Ronaldo would have kept Raúl González old all-time UEFA Champions League top scorer record in house ...

Messi celebrates record
Messi celebrates record

Number: 75 (Lionel Messi)
In the end, though, it was Messi and not Ronaldo who overhauled Raúl's long-standing competition mark. He equalled Raúl's 71 with two goals in FC Barcelona's matchday four win at AFC Ajax, and surpassed it with a hat-trick at APOEL FC, before a further strike in the Group F-clinching 3-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain took Messi onto 75.

In that period he also became the Spanish Liga's all-time leading marksman, and if Messi can manage nine goals in the knockout phase, he could reclaim his single-season UEFA Champions League mark from Ronaldo.

Quote: "We conjured a sort of sporting miracle"
Gianluigi Buffon on Juventus's dramatic and ultimately decisive 3-2 home win over Olympiacos FC

Agüero on City win
Agüero on City win

Match: Manchester City FC 3-2 FC Bayern München
Things looked pretty bleak for Manchester City on matchday five, what with Roma leading CSKA Moskva in the early game to potentially go five points above them prior to the evening visit of Bayern. Yet while CSKA equalised with the last kick of their match, with five minutes to play in Manchester, City still trailed 2-1.

However, up stepped Sergio Agüero – who had opened the scoring – to get an opportunist equaliser and then a similarly clinical winner to give City a great chance at Roma in their decider, one which they took even in the absence of Agüero.

Comeback: Arsenal FC 3-3 RSC Anderlecht
Another English side had been on the receiving end of a remarkable recovery on matchday four. With an hour gone, Arsenal were three up and cruising into the last 16 with two games to spare. But then Anthony Vanden Borre pulled one back, before converting a 73rd-minute penalty to set up a grandstand finale in which Aleksandar Mitrović headed a last-gasp equaliser.

Arsenal still went through, yet with tails up Anderlecht proceeded to beat Galatasaray AŞ 2-0 to clinch a UEFA Europa League slot and halt a sequence of seven straight fourth-place group finishes.

Goal: Which is your favourite?
Nani, Totti, Ronaldo, Jefferson and Hector Herrera won our Goal of the Week polls for the first five matchdays while the vote for the sixth is still open. Which is your favourite?

Matchday one: Nani
Matchday one: Nani
Matchday two: Totti
Matchday two: Totti
Matchday three: Ronaldo
Matchday three: Ronaldo
Matchday four: Jefferson
Matchday four: Jefferson
Matchday five: Herrera
Matchday five: Herrera


Top