It comes as no surprise that Robert Lewandowski took the honors as Champions League MD-4 Player of the Week after his fantastic hattrick against Dynamo Kyiv. But in addition to the Polish superstar, three others were officially nominated, and several more deserve recognition as well.
Let’s review the outstanding performers from MD-4, beginning with my “unofficial” nominees before moving on to the finalists and then the winner. Consider the pros and cons for each, and then vote for the man you think should have won PotW for UCL MD-4!
Cancelo is having an excellent season for the Citizens, arguably Man City’s player of the season so far. On top of being rock-solid defensively, the Portuguese fullback has been a menace going forward. Cancelo hit the post in the 14th minute against Brugge and went on to provide three assists in the game. Had that shot hit the inside of the post and gone in, Cancelo would have been the front-runner for the player of the week. But, football is a game of inches, and the Portuguese full-back has the right to feel hard done by to not finish in the top four for this week’s award despite putting on an exhilarating display.
Benzema has had a fantastic 2021 so far, and his MD-4 performance against Shakhtar Donetsk proves why the Frenchman is worthy of Ballon d’Or talks. Benzema’s work-rate and involvement in buildup play has always been top-notch, but after Ronaldo’s departure from Madrid, the Frenchman’s finishing and positioning seems to have gone up a level.
Both goals Benzema scored may look easy on the eye, but they were far from it. The first resulted from Benzema and Viniciur Jr’s relentless pressing, which forced Shakhtar center-back Marlon to lose possession in a critical area from which Vinicius squared the ball for his French partner to tap in. The second was a brilliant team goal involving Casemiro and Vinicius Jr with Benzema in the right place at the right time to apply a smart finish to clinch an important 2-1 victory for Real Madrid. Benzema was handed the player of the match award and would feel a touch unlucky to not be in the top four for the player of the week.
The contributions of central defensive midfielders always go under the radar when we look at the player of the week contenders. Although Jorginho didn’t have goals to show for his efforts, the Italian played key roles in both helping Chelsea keep a clean sheet and the match’s loan goal. It was Jorginho’s interception that started the Chelsea attacking sequence that resulted in the goal. In addition to his vital interceptions, the UEFA men’s player of the year was at his commanding best, making several key tackles and passes that earned him a player of the match award. Although the other contenders may have outperformed Jorginho this week, the Chelsea CDM’s midfield master class deserves a mention.
Jorginho MOTM performance vs Malmo!— #J5 (@J5extra) November 2, 2021
92% pass accuracy
7 duels won
2/2 accurate long balls
4 times fouled (most fouled player)
Ballon D'or worthy ⭐ pic.twitter.com/1AF5lMR1nZ
Dybala returned to the Champions League with a stellar performance to seal an enthralling 4-2 win over Zenit. He was a handful for the Zenit defense from the get-go, as the Argentine hit the post just eight minutes into the game after sitting Barrios down with an incisive cut. Dybala’s early shot set the tone for the rest of the game, and the Zenit resistance was broken when de Ligt’s lay-off header fell perfectly for Dybala to half-volley home for the Old Lady’s opener.
In the second half, Dybala came close again as the Juventus captain cut in from the right-hand side to produce a Robben-Esque curling effort, a whisker away from the far post. In the 55th minute, Chiesa drew a penalty, fouled by a clumsy tackle from Claudinho. Dybala, Juve’s designated penalty taker put his spot-kick wide of the target but got to retake the kick after Barrios was judged guilty of encroaching. This time Dybala emphatically dispatched his spot-kick to give Juventus a 2-1 lead. In the 81st minute, Dybala set up Morata with a chipped through-ball to wrap up the Turin club’s 4-2 win and seal a spot in the knockout stages, the Argentine bagging the player of the match award.
Paulo Dybala's game by numbers vs. Zenit St Petersburg:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 2, 2021
93.6% pass accuracy
8 shots (most)
6 ball recoveries
5 duels won
4 take-ons attempted
4 take-ons completed (=most)
3 chances created
Juventus' main man. pic.twitter.com/XBJLCIwhXq
Sporting CP talisman Pedro Goncalves was not at his goal-scoring best in the MD-3 reverse fixture against Besiktas, but in MD-4 the Portuguese winger was anything but quiet. Gonçalves was a constant threat down the right flank and was Sporting’s best attacker on the night. The Portuguese superstar drew a penalty that he then converted to give Sporting a first-half lead. Later he tricked Rıdvan Yılmaz with a dummy before scoring a brilliant second goal. Goncalves’ goals marked the beginning of the end for Besiktas as Sporting drubbed the Turkish club 4-0 and Goncalves was named player of the match.
| FOCUS— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) November 3, 2021
Pedro Gonçalves was Sporting's main man in their dominant 4:0 win over Beşiktaş:
⏱️ 72' played
⚽️ 2 goals
3 shots/2 on target
2 key passes
⚔️ 5/10 duels won
❌ 3 tackles
⚖️ 1 penalty won
8.6 SofaScore rating#SCPBJK #UCL pic.twitter.com/QmCmxJGKi2
Where would Man United be without Cristiano Ronaldo?! Where would Ole Gunnar Solskjær be without Cristiano Ronaldo?! Ronaldo has consistently produced the goods when all odds are stacked against him, and the Atalanta game in MD-4 was no different.
United went 1-0 down early in the 1st half due to an error from David de Gea, and the pressure was mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjær. In 1st half stoppage time, Ronaldo dropped deep to collect a ball and made a quick pass to Greenwood to start a wonderful team move that the Portuguese striker ended up finishing himself to level the score.
Early in the second half, Atalanta scored again when United’s back line couldn’t stop Zapata from finishing a well-worked chance. After going behind, United shifted onto the front foot, sniffing for an equalizer with no goal to show until Ronaldo pulled a rabbit out of his hat. In stoppage time (again), Ronaldo launched into a mazy run and attempted a pass that found its way fell to Greenwood who keenly put it on a plate back to the Portuguese phenom. From just outside the box, Ronaldo produced a thumping driven half-volley to the bottom corner to secure an important point by which United retains the top spot in Group F. Ronaldo bagged the player of the match award for making something out of nothing, yet again saving face for an otherwise ordinary performance from United.
Here’s Rio Ferdinand’s reaction to the Ronaldo brace. Fair to say, the former Man United center-back got a bit excited, but who can blame him?!
"This is what he does! It's illegal! Alien!"— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 2, 2021
We think @rioferdy5 enjoyed Cristiano Ronaldo's goals against Atalanta tonight... #UCLTONIGHT pic.twitter.com/8NlRaF4qWu
Lewandowski, playing his 100th Champions league game, put on a display worthy of the occasion. The polish striker started his scoring spree with an easy header from a Kingsley Coman clipped delivery early in the 1st half to give Bayern Munich an early 1-0 lead. Lew’s next goal-involvement came just a few minutes later, when the striker squared the ball to Gnabry who applied a cute finish to double Bayern’s lead. Benfica’s Lucas Veríssimo handled the ball in the Benfica box to give away a penalty at the stroke of halftime, but Lewandowski (Bayern’s prime penalty taker) launched his effort straight down the middle at a good height for Vlachodimos to save easily.
In the second half, Lewandowski more than made up for his penalty miss by scoring an exquisite chip in the 61st minute, followed by a Neuer-assisted lob over a helpless Vlachodimos to cap off a hattrick and 5-2 win that seals Bayern’s place in the knockout stages. Despite the penalty miss, Lewandowski was awarded the player of the match award and subsequently was also crowned MD-4 player of the week for his brilliant goal-scoring display.
Most goals in a calendar year since 2000— Don Lewandowski (@DonLewandowski9) November 6, 2021
Messi- 91 (2012)
Ronaldo- 69 (2013)
Ronaldo- 63 (2012)
Ronaldo- 61 (2014)
Lewandowski- 60* (2021)
Easily best striker of this generation pic.twitter.com/Tr3swjHKvh
What are your thoughts on MD-4’s player of the week being awarded to Lewandowski? Who would be your player of the week if not him? Who went under the radar? Did Karim Benzema or one of my other “unofficial” nominees deserve to be in the top four ahead of Dybala, or perhaps even ahead of Lewandowski? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.
Who was YOUR player of the week for UCL MD-4?
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