Champions League Matchday 5: Chelsea’s Giroud on top after four-goal game; Zidane, Solkskjaer among flops

Another thrilling week of Champions League action is over after providing a healthy dose of goals and drama with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Red Bull Salzburg all winning. It was a tough week for Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane and Manchester United’s Fred as both were in the firing line after their teams slipped to bad losses.

In Olivier Giroud and Irfan Kahveci, there were two midweek hat tricks with the Turkey international unlucky to be on the losing side in Istanbul Basaksehir’s seven-goal thriller against RB Leipzig in Group H.

Here are this week’s tops and flops.

Top: Olivier Giroud

Despite stiff competition it is hard to look past Giroud’s clinical showing as the standout performance of the week. Under pressure to perform knowing that reduced minutes for Chelsea have started to impact his situation with France at international level, the 34-year-old seized his chance with a delightful quadruple.

Giroud’s finishing also puts the Premier League outfit into top spot in Group E with a three-point and head-to-head advantage over the Spaniards that will see them through as group winners.

Flop: Zinedine Zidane

Having done the hard work against Inter Milan after unexpected results against Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk at the start of the group stage, Real went and put themselves back in the firing line with a 2-0 loss in Ukraine.

The Spanish giants have now lost three from their last five matches across all competitions and are already well off the pace in La Liga.

Top: Neymar and Thomas Tuchel

After Leipzig’s dramatic win in Istanbul, PSG knew that only a win would really do at Old Trafford and Thomas Tuchel set his team up to attack instead of the defensive effort shown against the Germans one week before.

Neymar was key to the Parisian plan and came up big with two goals in a performance that justifies why the club paid top dollar to bring him to Parc des Princes back in 2017 — the Brazilian and his compatriot Marquinhos proved themselves to be clutch as Neymar embraces his talismanic role.

Flop: Fred, Solkskjaer and Martial

It would be unfair to single out one major flop from Manchester United’s bad defeat at home to PSG, but the trio all need to shoulder some blame. 

The Brazilian was like a wild dog after avoiding a red card in the first half and Solskjaer must have known that he was taking a risk by keeping him on for the second half when a dismissal was inevitable. Although it came to fruition, though, it might not have mattered as much if Martial had not wasted one absolutely glorious chance when he blazed over from close range early in the second half.

The France international’s profligacy and Fred’s red card really cost United and one of those could have been avoided if Solskjaer had managed the game better for the Premier League outfit.

Top: Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg

Going to Russia knowing that only a win would do with just one point to their names, the Austrians delivered a near-perfect away display by taking a two-goal halftime lead and grabbing the key fourth goal of the game just minutes after Lokomotiv Moscow had got themselves back into it.

Mergim Berisha scored twice before Karim Adeyemi added the decisive third but Marsch’s tactical approach and in-game changes made all the difference in a performance that earns Salzburg a Europa League berth — or better.

Flop: Zenit Saint Petersburg and Lokomotiv Moscow

This season has been a largely chastening experience for Russia clubs with Krasnodar – improbably — the only representative that will remain in Europe.

Lokomotiv had looked tough to beat ahead of the Salzburg clash but had no answer to Marsch’s approach while Zenit have been dreadful from the off. It will take an improbable win away at Bayern Munich and for Atletico Madrid to not lose in Austria for Lokomotiv to scrape into the Europa League, but it is already continental curtains for Zenit.

Top: Inter Milan

Just when it looked like Antonio Conte’s position was becoming untenable, his players produced a gutsy performance to win 3-2 away at neutrals’ favorites Borussia Monchengladbach.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in an almost personal duel with Alassane Plea and the Italians came out on top in a result that incredibly keeps Group B reasonably wide open going into the final round where an Inter win over Shakhtar would put Monchengladbach or Real in danger.

Flop: Andre Onana

Ajax must now beat Atalanta in Amsterdam in their final game to make it into the knockout round after the Cameroon international’s blunder gifted Liverpool the only goal of the game.

The Italians know that a draw will be enough to keep them ahead of the Dutch giants who really could have used the point at Anfield.

Honorable Mentions: Irfan Kahveci and Marseille

Special mentions must go to Basaksehir’s three-goal star Kahveci and Marseille after their 2-1 home win over Olympiacos.

It is not often that a player scores a hat-trick and ends up on the losing side but that is what happened to the Turkey international in the thrilling 4-3 loss to Leipzig.

OM, meanwhile, ended their miserable run of 13 consecutive defeats in European competition with their win that could yet see them salvage Europa League football.

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