Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Matchday 4 of the 2018/19 Champions League has come to a close after supporters were treated to another double dose of high-octane action, played out over two intoxicating evenings of football.
In total, 51 goals were scored across the 16 Champions League fixtures, eclipsing the 45-goal haul from Matchday 3.
5 penalties were awarded and converted, 61 yellow cards were brandished and 3 players were sent off across Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s contests.
Amazingly, after 4 rounds of matches, only Barcelona have guaranteed their spot in the knockout phase out of the 32 competing teams.
With the dust starting to settle, let’s take a look at who we thought put in the best individual performances in our FST Champions League Matchday 4 Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Ethan Horvath – Club Brugge
23-year old Colorado born goalkeeper Ethan Horvath played a key role in helping Club Brugge record a sensational 4-0 win at Monaco on Tuesday evening. Horvath made a string of fine saves to keep Thierry Henry’s frustrated charges at bay at the Stade Louis II, and the twice capped USA international will find it tough to play a better game this season.
Centre Back: Milos Degenek – Red Star Belgrade
Red Star Belgrade battled their way to a famous and equally unexpected 2-0 win over last year’s beaten Champions League finalists Liverpool on Tuesday in Serbia. Red Star had to defend for large swathes of the contest and Australian international centre half Milos Degenek was in the thick of the action. Degenek made more interceptions (5) than any other player on the pitch and had a 100% tackle success rate.
Centre Back: Kostas Manolas – Roma
Greek international Kostas Manolas was the hero at both ends for Roma on a tricky night for the Italians in Russia. Manolas gave Roma an early lead against CSKA Moscow when he nodded home a 4th minute corner. From there, Manolas rolled out his full repertoire of defensive skills to help the Giallorossi hold out for 3 precious points.
Centre Back: Matija Nastasic – Schalke 04
Schalke 04 secured a valuable 2-0 win over Galatasaray on Tuesday to push them up to second place in Group D and Serbian defender Matija Nastasic was their star-man against the Turkish giants. Nobody made more tackles or clearances during the 90 minutes in Gelsenkirchen than the talented 25-year old.
Right Wing: Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Algerian international Riyad Mahrez is really starting to flourish in a Manchester City shirt. The fleet-footed winger was at his sublime best in City’s 6-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday evening. Mahez provided the assists for the first and last goals of the game, and the former Leicester City stat scored one himself with 6 minutes on the clock. Mahrez now has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games for the Citizens.
Central Midfield: Hans Vanaken – Anderlecht
Anderlecht’s Hans Vanaken makes FST’s Champions League team of the week for the second time in a row after his match-defining performance for Club Brugge in their big win in Monaco. The 26-year old broke the deadlock in the principality after 12 minutes before adding a second from the spot just 5 minutes later. Vanaken combined his goal scoring exploits with a tireless work ethic, and the Belgian was never far away from the action throughout.
Central Midfield: Toni Kroos – Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s win against Viktoria Plzen may have been routine, but Toni Kroos’ performance was anything but. The German’s metronomic passing had the Czech side chasing shadows for most of the game and Kroos provided assists for both of Real’s first two goals at the Doosan Arena. Kroos got in on the act himself in the second half, firing home the game’s fifth and final goal on 67 minutes.
Left Wing: Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Kroos’ Real teammate Gareth Bale was also in scintillating form in the Czech Republic. Bale made 1 and scored 1 of Los Blancos 5 goals against Viktoria Plzen in a display of devastating attacking brilliance. Bale hit the woodwork too on a night where he could have finished with double the numbers that he did. Bale’s goal was his first for Real since his Champions League strike against Roma on September 19th.
Striker: Milan Pavkov– Red Star Belgrade
On his first Champions League start of the season, Milan Pavkov carved his name into Red Star folklore by scoring both goals in their 2-0 win against Liverpool. The 24-year old registered his first with a bullet header from a corner, and added a second shortly after with a searing shot from distance. Pavkov scored from his only 2 attempts on goal during the entire 90 minutes.
Striker: Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City
Gabriel Jesus was at the sharp end of City’s relentless attack against a hapless Shakhtar Donetsk side at the Etihad on Wednesday evening in Manchester. The Brazilian scored his first two goals from the penalty spot and completed his hattrick late on, converting an injury-time Riyad Mahrez pass to claim the match-ball. Jesus’ trio of strikes were his first City goals since late September.
Striker: Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur
Where would Spurs be without Harry Kane? With Tottenham trailing at home to PSV and time tickling by, Harry Kane swept home a 78th minute equalizer with his left foot. With Spurs’ Champions League qualification hopes in the balance, Kane stooped to nod Ben Davies last-minute cross to the back-post. Kane’s effort needed 2 deflections to find its way over the line, but the talismanic centre forward was in the right place at the right time for Spurs yet again.
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