From Zlatan's tache-bash to racism in Russia, the Champions League group stage has provided some memorable highs and some depressing lows
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 30-yard blooter against Anderlecht was the most spectacular but in the context of his personal portfolio it was little more than a tap-in. Ramsey's header in Dortmund wasn't exactly in the same aesthetic ballpark, but it was a gentle eyebrow-brush that was heard around the world: no other goal turned a team's campaign on its head like this. Arsenal were under the cosh when it occurred, staring the Europa League in the face; after it went in, qualification for the second round was suddenly a realistic possibility.
The poor bloke is getting brickbats for Manchester United's dismal performances in the Premier League, so it's only fair he should be thrown a sweet-smelling bouquet for guiding his new club through Group A with the minimum of fuss. Bayer Leverkusen were thrashed 9-1 on aggregate, no small feat as Sami Hyypia's men are currently ahead of last year's Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. The half-time hairdryer turned on against Shakhtar Donetsk in the final game is worthy of note too, sending the Ukrainians out rather than sneaking off with a shock win and leadership of the group. Moyes's achievement has been strangely underplayed: even Sir Alex Ferguson failed to make it through the groups on occasion.
Yaya Touré was visibly upset after Manchester City's trip to CSKA Moscow, where he was subjected to racist monkey chanting. Afterwards, he called on Uefa to take tough action, saying: "I'm not just disappointed, I'm furious. I'm very, very disappointed about what those fans have done today and I think Uefa have to take action because players with the same colour of skin will always be in the same position. For me, as captain, I was wearing an armband which said 'No to racism' and I was totally disappointed." The reaction from CSKA Moscow was unedifying. Though the manager, Leonid Slutsky, made it clear the club were against all racism, he described the fallout to the incident as "very exaggerated" and "an overreaction."
The La Liga side may have had one of the easier draws of the competition – Porto, Zenit and the debutants Austria Vienna – but the old adage of only having to beat the team in front of you holds true. And Atlético did that with aplomb. At home they won all three of their matches and away they only dropped points at Zenit, who were the eventual runners-up in the group. Diego Simeone's side also went through with a goal difference of 12 – second only to Real Madrid, equal with Bayern, and scored by a team put together for a fraction of the cost of either.
The Belgians are the side to play should you be looking to impress. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four on his own past them, one of them a 30-yard piledriver and the other a clipped, backheeled flick. But while scoring four past the likes of Anderlecht is impressive, it's no longer unexpected. More of a surprise, then, was Olympiakos's Kostas Mitroglou, whose three goals against the Belgians was the first-ever Champions League hat-trick by a Greek player. He has since been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, suggesting there is more to come.
The European champions fielded a strong XI for their final game in Group D, while it was City who made all sorts of changes with the upcoming Premier League showdown against Arsenal in mind. No matter: Manuel Pellegrini's jazz band came from two goals down to record an astonishing win. It was Bayern's first home defeat since March and only their second since October 2012. City had already qualified for the knockout stage, the first time they had made it through a round of the European Cup since they started trying back in 1968, but this was the moment they finally felt at home among the big boys.
How different would Juventus's campaign have been had Giorgio Chiellini not been such a daft sod at the Bernabéu? Juve were giving as good as they got with the score 1-1, until Chiellini wrestled Sergio Ramos to the ground in the penalty area. Cristiano Ronaldo tucked away the resulting spot-kick, then just after half-time made the most of Chiellini's inexcusable decision to flap his fingers in his face. Red card! A 48-minute performance of the crassest buffoonery, and one which really cost Juve, who nevertheless pushed Real hard despite being down to 10 men. With 11 men, a point wouldn't have been beyond them that evening – and maybe the narrative of Group B might have unfolded in a more acceptable fashion for the Old Lady. Oh, Giorgio ...
When Mikel Arteta got his marching orders at Napoli this week for two questionable challenges, he had the audacity to look shocked to see red. But it had been coming – he really should have walked in Dortmund for persistent fouling. Arteta has always had a bit of the devil in an otherwise artistic make-up, but he's suddenly laying it on a wee bit too thick, and as a result Arsenal will miss him dreadfully in the first leg of the second round. Arteta needs to calm down, a point Arsène Wenger is sure to have made to the player in a lyrical style.
A toss up between Mathieu Flamini's right to bare arms and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's tache-bash. Flamini was forced to apologise for cutting off the sleeves of his Arsenal shirt, defying the club tradition in which the captain decides whether short-sleeved or long-sleeved attire will be worn. "I like to wear short sleeves, that's what I like to do," sniffed Flamini. "I do not like that and he will not do that again," reckoned Arsène Wenger. Meanwhile, Anderlecht's moustachioed midfielder Sacha Kljestan revealed that Ibrahimovic turned to him midway through their match against Paris Saint-Germain to offer some style advice. "After a perfectly normal challenge, Ibra turned to me and provoked me, making a joke about my moustache, saying: 'That really is terrible,'" said Kljestan, clearly not one to take it lying down. "I responded by saying that he should think about his nose."
Having previously delivered sermons on 'John The Milkman' and the story of the priest and the mountain of sugar, Rafael Benítez teed up Napoli's match against Arsenal with a tale about a donkey. "If a man is walking with his son and his donkey," he said, "the first person will come along and say: 'Why don't you put your son on the donkey?' So he puts his son on the donkey, and a second person meets him and says: 'Why aren't you sitting on the donkey, too?' Every decision you make, someone criticises. It is best to stick with what you know."