Messi wins Champions League Goal of the Group Stage award

By Sports Desk December 17, 2021

Lionel Messi's effort for Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City has been voted the Champions League Goal of the Group Stage.

The strike was the 34-year-old's first goal for PSG after joining on a free transfer due to Barcelona's financial issues preventing them from offering him a new contract.

PSG were 1-0 up after an eighth-minute opener from midfielder Idrissa Gueye when Messi, in the 74th minute, played a neat one-two with Kylian Mbappe on the edge of the box. 

The Frenchman backheeled into Messi's path before the Argentine rifled an unstoppable left-footed effort into the top-right corner past a helpless Ederson in the City goal.

Messi garnered 22 per cent of the vote - over 200,00 were cast - beating out competition from Thiago Alcantara and Robert Lewandowski, who gained 14 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

Thiago struck a stunning volley into the bottom-right corner for Liverpool in their 2-0 win over Porto at Anfield, while Lewandowski fired in a spectacular bicycle kick in Bayern Munich's 2-1 away victory over Dynamo Kiev.

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    David Alaba has taken his place in Real Madrid's starting line-up for the first time in over a month for the Champions League final against Liverpool on Saturday.

    Alaba had been out of action since being substituted at half-time during Madrid's 4-3 semi-final first-leg defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, with Nacho starting instead when Carlo Ancelotti's men sealed a 6-5 aggregate victory with a stunning comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this month.

    The Austria defender's selection in Paris was the only change to the Madrid side that started that second leg, with attacking duo Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema again leading the line.

    Those two have assisted one another a combined 18 times in all competitions this season, the most of any pairing in Europe's top five leagues.

    Vinicius' inclusion made him just the fifth player to start a Champions League final for Madrid aged 21 or younger, after Raul (1998), Iker Casillas (2000), Nicolas Anelka (2000) and Raphael Varane (2014).

    However, Benzema is at the opposite end of his career. He and Alaba were joined by Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to make Madrid the first team to start a final with four players who had previously made 100 or more Champions League appearances.

    Benzema had been one of three centurions (also Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos) in Madrid's 2018 final win over Liverpool, in which Gareth Bale's brace as a substitute proved the difference in a 3-1 triumph.

    Bale was named on the bench again for this rematch ahead of his imminent departure as a free agent, while fellow winger Eden Hazard was also among the substitutes.

    Semi-final hero Rodrygo Goes, who grabbed an improbable stoppage-time double to wipe out City's lead over Los Blancos, hoped to make a similar impact after being named next to the big-money duo on the bench.

    Madrid headed into the game aiming to win their 14th European Cup or Champions League title, with their 13 prior wins already a record. Ancelotti was bidding to become the first man to win four Champions Leagues.

  • Giroud eyeing World Cup swansong after Milan's Scudetto triumph Giroud eyeing World Cup swansong after Milan's Scudetto triumph

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    Giroud has been left out of Didier Deschamps' squad for France's four UEFA Nations League fixtures next month, with the World Cup holders' schedule including a double-header against 2018 final foes Croatia.

    But the striker, who appeared in all seven matches during France's second triumphant World Cup campaign in Russia, has impressed since joining Milan at the start of the season, joining Rafael Leao (both 11) as the Rossoneri's highest league goalscorers as Stefano Pioli's men won their first league title since 2010-11.

    Giroud and has 112 caps for France and is just three goals away from equalling Thierry Henry's record of 51 goals for Les Blues, but will be 36 years old by the time his country begin their World Cup campaign on November 22.

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    "There are still many months to go. Until then, I'll take advantage of my holidays and savour this title with my club. Then we'll see what happens."

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    "There have been great players who have passed from Milan," he added. "But it is a source of pride to have contributed to the construction of this Scudetto, eleven years later with experienced players like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, it is fantastic. 

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    Referring to the side's incredible celebrations, Giroud added: "I think you really realise the impact it has had in Milan and Italy on the open bus, seeing these hundreds of thousands of Milanese fans who have been waiting for a while. 

    "We are all very proud to bring Milan back to the top. It was a tough fight to the end, and you realise you are joining a very big club when you see all this passion around you and the class that reigns in this historic club. 

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