Lionel Messi makes another mark at Chelsea as a Newcastle United reject puts Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League driving seat against Roma
From the four Champions League last 16 ties this week, three remain very much in the balance and in the evenly contested first legs from London, Kharkiv and Seville, Argentinians took centre stage: One a consistent match winner, one a not frequent enough world class operator and another who never quite lived up to his potential.
Lionel Messi broke his Chelsea duck
Much was made of Lionel Messi’s record of never scoring against Chelsea in the build-up of their highly anticipated Champions League clash but if the world’s greatest player has proved anything during his career it’s that records are there to be broken.
After nine games, a period of 730 minutes, Messi ended his Chelsea goal drought with an emphatic finish past Thibaut Courtois to give Barcelona a valuable 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
"Leo Messi has n̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ scored against Chelsea."
✅ Done. pic.twitter.com/3NlCQIvLha
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 20, 2018
Chelsea did a terrific job in suffocating Barça but one defensive lapse was ruthlessly punished taking Messi’s tally for the season to 28 goals and 14 assists in 36 matches.
Of course, Messi’s contribution is quantified in so much more than just goals and his role in previous victories against Chelsea cannot be understated but his 596th career strike at least crosses the London club off the list.
Ever Banega serves up a timely reminder
Only a tremendous David de Gea display prevented Sevilla taking a first leg to Old Trafford and as the Spanish club led Manchester United on a merry dance at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, there was one man orchestrating the whole thing.
It may not happen as regularly as it should but Ever Banega controlled the Champions League meeting on Wednesday with a display of efficient, measured and yet dangerously creative passing from midfield.
No player has created more goal scoring opportunities in a Champions League game this season and with Jorge Sampaoli still pondering over his Argentina squad and who could link his midfield together, Banega may still be in pole position.
Ever Banega has Most Passes (774), Most Successful Passes in a game (154), Most Key Passes in a match (10) in UCL this season….. pic.twitter.com/Tnu44mX5J2
— Argentina Football (@ARG_soccernews) February 23, 2018
Champions League child’s play
Newcastle United supporters might be scratching their heads wondering if it is the same striker that didn’t get a single minute of first team action during a loan spell at St. James’ Park but the very same Facundo Ferreyra scored a vital equaliser against Roma to help Shakhtar Donetsk to a 2-1 first leg win.
— FutcepSports (@futcepsports) February 21, 2018
And this is no flash in the pan. Chucky has three goals and two assists in seven Champions League games this season and while sitting well clear at the top of the Ukrainian scoring charts has now scored 12 in his last 13 appearances.
The versatile number nine took his goal superbly and looked every inch the player that his early years at Banfield and Vélez Sarsfield promised. Still only 26, Ferreyra is the prolific tip to the Shakhtar attack and while it might not be one of the Europe’s top leagues, Chucky has proved a huge success in Ukraine.