Best Match: TIE — Olympique Lyon 2, Manchester City 2; FC Barcelona 2, PSV Eindhoven 1.
Both of these games exploded with unbridled, underdog energy as dark horses PSV Eindhoven and Olympique Lyon set out to pressure their heavily favored opponents.
Lyon and Manchester stayed scoreless through the first half as they waged a battle of blitz attacks in the south of France.
The French side led 1-0 and 2-1 in the second half as Maxwel Cornet hit the post on an audacious volley before he gave Lyon the lead — twice.
Manchester City’s quality, however, could not be contained, and headers from Aymeric Laporte and talisman Sergio Agüero ensured a split result after 90 minutes.
Lyon remains undefeated in European competition this term, but it has won only one match and drawn four. It has been consistently unable to finish games, which adds extra pressure to an important game against Shakhtar Donetsk next week. With a win or tie, Lyon will progress, but a loss would see it eliminated.
Manchester City secured its passage to the knockout stages with a draw, and one should expect manager Pep Guardiola to rest his starters in their final group-stage match against TSG Hoffenheim as the Citizens prepare a challenge for the Champions League title.
Barcelona and PSV met in a high-stakes match in the Netherlands: PSV needed to win to keep any hopes alive, and Barcelona required a tie or better to win Group B.
Eindhoven appeared to be the better team and had multiple shots blocked by the post, including a barrage from Luuk de Jong and Steven Bergwijn where two consecutive attempts hit the woodwork.
Lionel Messi would prove to be the difference maker, as the Argentinian wizard scored a goal and assisted another en route to an important win for the reigning Spanish champions. A late goal from PSV proved to be just that — late.
PSV was eliminated, and Barcelona progressed through to the round of 16.
Best Player: Taison, Shakhtar Donetsk
The sheer importance of his goals, his play and this game make Taison the best player of the week. It’s hard to play professional soccer, but it’s even harder when everything is on the line.
Shakhtar Donetsk and TSG Hoffenheim met in Germany with both sides needing a victory to avoid elimination. This game was high-stakes — win or go home, all or nothing. The real, bona fide deal.
Taison stepped up to the plate for the Ukrainian club. Shakhtar had yet to win a game and struggled throughout the tournament, but his team needed him most, and the Brazilian attacker erupted in style.
Taison provided an exciting and consistent attacking threat, culminating in two goals and an assist. His final goal proved to be the most important, as he slotted the ball away in stoppage time to give Shakhtar a last-gasp victory.
Best Group: Group B — Barcelona (13 points), Tottenham Hotspur (7 points), Internazionale Milan (7 points), PSV Eindhoven (1 point)
This group, while not obviously close, had two very good matches last match week, with both Barcelona and Tottenham producing dramatic victories to further their campaigns.
Additionally, Tottenham and Inter Milan are now neck and neck in the race for the remaining ticket to the knockout stage. Both clubs enter their last game needing a positive result, so every match in Group B during the final week matters, and, more importantly, both of these games should be entertaining.
Tottenham will travel to Barcelona’s famous stadium, the Camp Nou, and Inter Milan will have to hope the Spanish side does not rest players in the face of an assured first-place spot in the group. The Milanese club will take on PSV Eindhoven.
Either match should prove entertaining, as no team has any incentive to sit back and play defensively.
Biggest Winner: FC Porto, 3-1 over Schalke 04
Porto and Schalke were one-two in Group D at the beginning of this game, and they still are, but Porto’s confident win sealed its first-place position.
Schalke has also earned a spot in the knockout stages through results elsewhere in its group, but Porto’s win was an impressive and important statement.
In a relatively even group, FC Porto has dominated thus far to the tune of four wins and one draw. It enters the last 16 with an extra week of rest and confidence. That has not always translated well to performances in the knockout stages in years past, but Porto has put itself in a position to get an easier first-round opponent and cause trouble for bigger teams later.
The most pressing question is whether its dynamic attack can score against elite defenses, but FC Porto should not be taken lightly no matter who it plays.
Biggest Loser: Galatasaray, 0-2 loss to Lokomotiv Moscow
The Turkish champions had a chance to shake things up and play their way toward a berth in the round of 16 with a win. Instead, they collapsed against a previously winless Lokomotiv Moscow.
A victory would have put Galatasaray just 1 point behind the aforementioned Schalke 04 with a game left to play. The club from Istanbul, however, dropped the ball, proving unable to score against Lokomotiv.
To make matters worse, the first goal suffered was an own goal, as midfielder Ryan Donk let the ball into his own net.
This marks a disappointing result and campaign for an otherwise competitive and usually interesting Galatasaray side, which had all to play for but has instead lost everything.
Jasper Sundeen writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at
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