Winners and Losers from Champions League Last 16 First Leg

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

Winners and Losers from Champions League Last 16 First Leg

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    The first eight of this season's Champions League last 16 got their European campaigns back underway this week, and as always there are those who came off better than others.

    Wins for Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich meant that Bayer Leverkusen, Manchester City, Milan and Arsenal were left disappointed from their first legs, respectively.

    The first four ties of this year's Round of 16 threw up a variety of positives and negatives on both the club and individual level, some of which are detailed ahead.

Winner: Bayern's Pep Proficiency

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    Arsenal and Bayern Munich's Wednesday evening clash at the Emirates Stadium was talk of the town this week, the highlight of our first four Round of 16 matchups.

    A fixture that could have gone either way, it was ultimately Pep Guardiola's combination of astute tactical nuance and superb playing resources that saw the reigning European champions come out on top.

    According to WhoScored, the Germans enjoyed a magnificent 79 percent of the possession, outplaying the Gunners at their own game, and on their own turf no less.

    And it should be only right that it was Toni Kroos—a player whom WhoScored showed enjoyed a pass completion rate of 97 percent on the night—who opened the scoring on the road to a 2-0 victory.

Loser: Wojciech Szczesny's Goalmouth Antics

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    Arsenal's task of overcoming Bayern wasn't helped by the 37th-minute sending of Wojciech Szczesny, the Pole's foul on Arjen Robben in the box was enough to convince referee Nicola Rizzoli that a penalty and red card were deserved.

    However, the controversy wouldn't end there, as Paddy Power showed on Vine:

    Szczesny not a fan of that ref anyway.

    It's the sort of situation that no No. 1 wants to find themselves in, never mind up against the might of a side like Der FCB.

    Regardless, Szczesny clearly wasn't impressed by the actions leading up to or causing his dismissal, proceeding to give a sign of international understanding.

Winner: Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Left Foot

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    One trait that almost all great strikers possess is the ability to use two feet, ambidexterity being an attribute that lends itself to the scoring rate of any forward.

    For those who may have doubted Zlatan Ibrahimovic's credentials as arguably the best finisher in the world right now, the second of his two goals against Bayer Leverkusen was an absolute scorcher of a left-footed shot.

    After the game, the Swede was quoted by the Metro's Gavin Brown as answering the notion that he scored with his "wrong foot," saying simply: "There is no wrong foot."


Loser: Manchester City's European Credentials

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    With Manuel Pellegrini now at the club's helm and their Premier League title hopes looking healthy, Manchester City had an enigmatic aura about them going into Tuesday's Round of 16 clash against Barcelona.

    However, a 2-0 defeat wasn't the respect-garnering result that the Citizens were hoping for, and their acclaim as one of Europe's titans took a hit as a result.

    Pellegrini was quoted by BBC Sport's Phil McNulty as saying that the referee was "not impartial" in some of his decisions, but one could see the mood that the match would take just from the first 10 minutes of Barca-dominated ball playing.

    City now face a nigh impossible task of overcoming the deficit in their reverse fixture at the Camp Nou, but it's highly likely that the damage done is beyond repair.

Winner: Neymar's European Reputation

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    Naturally, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding Neymar's £50 million move to Barcelona last summer was whether or not the Brazilian would be able to adapt to Europe's style of play.

    So many times in the past has a South American star with high expectations on their shoulder fallen short when moving to England, Spain, Italy, Germany or any other of the continent's top leagues, but the Camp Nou's latest wunderkind seems to be doing just fine.

    Coming on against Manchester City in the 74th minute, Neymar impressed once again at the Etihad Stadium, managing to assist Dani Alves' 90th-minute finisher in the process.

    With 12 goals and 13 assists to his name for the club this term, per Transfermarkt, Barca certainly wouldn't appear to have invested in a flop, with Tuesday's performance merely the latest sign as to why.

Loser: Mesut Ozil's Penalty-Taking Aspirations

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    As though written by the Fates themselves, former German gem Mesut Ozil was the man fouled by Jerome Boateng in the eighth minute of Arsenal's meeting with Bayern Munich on Wednesday, subsequently stepping up to take the resulting penalty.

    However, what would have been a dream start for the Gunners was ruined by an admittedly poor spot-kick attempt, hit at a perfect saving height for Manuel Neuer.

    This was Ozil's third missed club-level penalty attempt in succession, as confirmed by the Mail Online:

    Look away Arsenal fans, here's Ozil failing to score a penalty for the third consecutive time at club level #afc

    One can't blame the former Real Madrid star for persevering, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere unless Ozil's finishing from 12 yards sees some swift improvement.