This year’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals had been packed with excitement as we witnessed some of the best and most entertaining football matches of the season. Read on to find out more about the 2022 Champions League Semi-Finals best players.
The clash of titans between England’s champions, Manchester City versus the king of Europe, Real Madrid, on one hand, and the game between the giant-killer, Villarreal, and 2020 UCL winners, Liverpool, on the other.
Four matches that made us sit at the edge of our seats between April 26th till May 5th; a total of 18 goals scored, 400 minutes of football, 200,000 attendances, 18 yellow cards, and so much more but in the end, only two teams made it to the finals.
UEFA namedThibaut Courtois
as the best player of the Champions League semi-finals. Real Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper was named UEFA's player of the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
The Real Madrid goalkeeper was also named Man of the Match in the game againstManchester City
at the Bernabéu.
Courtois, who picked up the Man of the Match award in the semi-final return leg against Manchester City, received more votes than Luis Díaz (Liverpool), Coquelin (Villarreal) and Bernardo Silva (Manchester City).
Here in this article, we want to present the best players that blessed us by showcasing their hard work and talent in this year’s semifinals.
Full name: Karim Mostafa Benzema
Date of birth: 19 December 1987 (age 34)
Place of birth: Lyon, France
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Current team: Real Madrid
The best player in this season’s UEFA Champions League has undoubtedly beenKarim Benzema
. The Frenchman is proving to be at his prime by scoring goals one week after the other.
Ever since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema has been the main man in Madrid’s attacks, and for the past two years, he has delivered and dedicated so much to his team.
So far this season, he has scored 50 goals for the first time in his career, helpingReal Madrid
win the La Liga title 4 weeks prior to the end of the season. He is, also, the favorite to win the Ballon d’Or this year because of his performances throughout the season.
Karim Benzema’s genius is not limited to the domestic matches, however. He has been super in white shirt in Champions League this season. He is the top scorer with 15 goals and he is the highest-rated player on almost all critical websites and magazines.
It was his brilliant hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain that paved the way for Real Madrid’s comeback in the round of 16. A hattrick that was repeated the very next game in the champions league, this time against the defending champions, Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge.
He scored once again in the second leg of the quarter-finals to secure Real Madrid’s spot in the top 4 teams of the competition. Benzema didn’t quit his habit in semis, either.
The first leg was played at Etihad Stadium and Man City started the game with a storm, scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes. But Karim Benzema countered it with an absolutely beautiful half volley left-foot shot from behind the box that made the game 2-1.
Although City was still dominant and scored twice again. While the game was 4-2 in favor of Manchester City, the referee blew his whistle and pointed at the spot to declare a penalty kick for Real Madrid.
As one of the
2022 Champions League Semi-Finals best players
, Karim Benzema had been the first option to shoot a penalty for Madrid this season but he had missed two penalties in one game a week prior to the game so we thought it was bold of him to stand behind the kick again. Benzema scored the penalty with an amazingly composed Panenka shot and left 52000 Citizens at the stadium in awe.
The second leg of this game didn’t have as many goals but did have twice the excitement. Madrid, that were already down by one goal, conceded another in the 74th minute and what was supposed to be a hard job became an impossible one. But the last thing Real Madrid does is give up.
A cross came in the box for Benzema in the 90th minute, he jumped and passed the ball with an acrobatic kick to Rodrygo, who put the ball into the back of the net to make it 5-4 in aggregate. Only 2 minutes later,Rodrygo
scored again, this time with a header to force the game to go to the extra time.
Manchester City players were shocked and you could see it in their faces how they were under the influence of Bernabeu’s bombastic atmosphere. Extra times began 5 minutes after Benzema was fouled inside the box to gain another penalty for Real Madrid.
Benzema, himself, stood behind the ball once again, and once again he sent Ederson the wrong way as he scores the penalty. Benzema finished the semi-finals with 3 goals, an assist, and a ticket to Paris for him and his fellow Madridistas. Karim Benzema has surely forced his name into the conversation of Champions League best players of all-time.
Full name: Sadio Mané
Date of birth: 10 April 1992 (age 30)
Place of birth: Bambali, Sédhiou, Senegal
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Position(s): Forward / Winger
Current team: Liverpool
Liverpool is having a wonderful season andSadio Mane
is a blast to watch among them. Mane has proven himself to be a goal scorer as well as a point guard who creates a lot of chances for his teammates.
He has scored 22 goals and dished 4 assists this season to help Liverpool win the EFL Cup, and be a finalist in the FA Cup and Champions League, while they still have hopes to win the Premier League despite being 3 points behind Man City.
Mane started the season in his usual and favorite position as a left winger. But with Firmino dealing with injuries and not being able to perform at his highest level, Mane was instructed to play as a center forward alongside Salah and Jota to form Klopp’s favorite 4-3-3.
Although Mane was not completely happy with the decision, he accepted it. In the winter transfer window, Liverpool acquired Colombian winger,Luis Diaz
from Porto to help the team’s depth in attack, and with Diaz surprisingly adapting very well to the team, Mane turned to Klopp’s first choice as a center forward.
Mane developed and adapted to his new position quite well and felt more comfortable, little by little. In the Champions League so far, Mane has started 83% of the game this season and was able to score 5 goals, 2 of them in the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, Mane and Liverpool were facing Villarreal which managed to pull off an impossible mission of eliminating Juventus and Bayern Munich in the previous rounds. He was truly one of the
2022 Champions League Semi-Finals best players
Liverpool started the first leg very strong, they were focused in defense, and fluid in the middle of the park but lacked precision in the box in the first half. In the second half, however, Liverpool started attacking very aggressively and they were able to score two goals in the first ten minutes of the second half.
Mane scored the second goal; He created a triangle with Salah andTrent Alexander-Arnold
, then ran behind the defensive line where he found a through ball from Salah and scored a goal with a clinical finish in a one-on-one situation. Liverpool won the game 2-0 at Anfield.
The second leg, at la Cerámica, started with a bang. Villarreal decreased their goal deficit from two to one very quickly as Boulaye Dia scored in the 3rd minute of the game.
The Spanish side leveled the game by the end of the first half and two teams went to the dressing room 2-2 on aggregate. Liverpool stepped inside of the pitch in the second half as a different team. They focused and determined and they controlled the game very well.
Liverpool scored their first goal with the help of Mane, as he opened a space on the right-hand side for Fabinho to get the ball from Salah and score a goal with a powerful shot.Liverpool
scored their second goal minutes after that, making the game 4-2 on aggregate.
Mane finished his brilliant second-half performance with a goal as he fled the offside trap to get the ball, get past the goalkeeper, Rulli, and dribble Juan Foyth to finally open an empty net with a precise left-foot shot.
Mane and his team will play Real Madrid in the Champions League finals once again as they did in 2018 and Mane hope to score another goal in the final against Real Madrid, but perhaps this time without losing the game.
Full name: Bernardo Mota Veiga de Carvalho e Silva
Date of birth: 10 August 1994 (age 27)
Place of birth: Lisbon, Portugal
Height: 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Position(s): Midfielder, winger
Current team: Manchester City
Bernardo Mota Veiga de Carvalho e Silva, what a baller! Silva has been an absolute joy to watch this season. He will dribble, shoot, pass, press, run and do almost anything he wants on the field. Pep Guardiola has developed Bernardo into a superstar in his team alongside his other fabulous midfielder,Kevin De Bruyne
Bernardo Silva is one of the main reasons why Man City is at the top of the Premier League right now. He has scored 8 goals and assisted 4 times but his true help cannot simply be measured by numbers, but by his performance on the football pitch.
Bernardo, this season, played as a box-to-box midfielder in a tactical 4-3-3 in front of Rodri and alongside De Bruyne, but due to the fact that not many teams can push back Man City to their own box, we usually see Bernardo Silva doing his magic behind the opponents’ box.
His ability to switch his position from a left winger to a midfielder was truly astonishing and football fans have another reason to thank Pep Guardiola. Bernardo Silva would usually take the ball from defenders or Rodri and try to move it forward into the opponent’s defense, either by quick passes with teammates or by carrying the ball forward.
Bernardo’s Champions League journey this season, although finished, was praised by critics. He started all the games but one and he was able to influence the game in favor of his team, especially in the knockout rounds.
During the first semi-final match, he was tireless and determined to disrupt Real Madrid's playmaking and rhythm, and he was very successful at it. He scored Man City’s fourth goal that night with a monstrous shot that turned Courtois into a witness.
He was able to use the advantage opportunity given by the referee to surprise Madrid defenders and shoot the ball into the back of the net. He even won the UEFA “Man of the Match” award that night as City was able to beat Real Madrid 4-3 at home.
In the second leg, Although Man City could not finalize their flight to Paris for the finals,Bernardo Silva
played really well against Madrid, once again, this time in Bernabeu.
He was able to get past Toni Kroos and Nacho multiple times and get the ball to the forward players. In fact, Citizen’s only goal in this game came after one of the Portuguese’s runs; He saw an empty space in the middle of the field, asked for the ball, took it, and carried the ball from the kick-off spot to Madrid’s box, then tricked the defense by cutting inside while passing the ball wide to Mahrez who scored with a curling shot.
Silva was tireless as always but his side was genuinely shocked after conceding two goals in the dying minutes of the game and eventually getting knocked out. Silva’s dream to win the Champions League must wait at least one more year.
Full name: Thibaut Nicolas Marc Courtois
Date of birth: 11 May 1992 (age 30)
Place of birth: Bree, Belgium
Height: 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in)
Current team: Real Madrid
Thibaut Courtois was among the
2022 Champions League Semi-Finals best players
. He is known as the Belgian wall of Real Madrid! If we set aside the amazing Vini Jr. and Karim Benzema duo, Thibaut Courtois is arguably the reason behind Real Madrid’s success in the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League season.
They have conceded the least goals in La Liga this season, alongside Sevilla, and it is all thanks to their main man in the goal, Thibaut Courtois. He has had 14 clean sheets in 35 matches (Second in La Liga) and saved 76.3% of shots that threatened his goal (first in La Liga).
At the start of the season, everyone thought that Real Madrid's defense was weakening due to the departure of Sergio Ramos, and Raphael Varane, but Thibaut Courtois’s presence was crucial in so many matches for Madridistas.
During the group stage of the Champions League, Courtois kept a clean sheet 4 times out of 6 matches, although he wasn’t very successful in that area in the knockout stage. But why should that matter if you are a Champions League finalist?
The Belgian had some crucial saves during Madrid’s journey in Europe this season, including a late save againstChelsea
that kept Real Madrid in the game, before they made yet another one of their memorable comebacks in Bernabeu.
Granted, he did concede four goals in the first leg against Manchester City, but if you replay the goals, none of them was truly his fault, except the third goal where he could come out of the goal sooner and stopped the cross. Nevertheless, he did his job as best he could that day in Etihad.
The main reason we chose his name in this article, however, is his performance in the second leg of the competition. He made an astonishing number of 8 saves during the game against City in Bernabeu, 4 of which were inside the box.
Also, he made 8 recoveries in the open play and completed 10 accurate long balls. He was the definition of a wall that night and had a huge influence over Madrid’s comeback. He was named UEFA “Man of the Match” after the game, a well-deserved title for the 30-year-old.
Full name: Virgil van Dijk
Date of birth: 8 July 1991 (age 30)
Place of birth: Breda, Netherlands
Height: 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
Current team: Liverpool
Speaking of walls, let’s hear it for Liverpool’s.Virgil van Dijk
is arguably the best defender in the world right now. He is big, he is fast, and most importantly, he is smart.
He has the ability to cover up the blank space of Robertson very neatly, as well as help his duo in the heart of the defense to hold the line. Not only is he a leader in defense, but he is also an aerial weapon in attacks due to his incredible physicality. Let’s put it this way, Virgil van Dijk has the combination of everything you dream of a defender to have.
Van Dijk missed half of the group stage matches and a quarter-final match in the second leg, but he has been the pillar that Liverpool trusted in the knockout stage. He captained Liverpool in both matches against Inter as they won Italy’s champion 2-1 on aggregate.
He was the captain again against Benfica in an away 3-1 win in the quarter-finals. In the semis, Liverpool facedVillarreal
, a team that is based on fastbreaks and counterattacks. Van Dijk stopped Villarreal’s attacks superbly in the first leg at Anfield.
He was playing against Chukwueze and Danjuma, Villarreal attacking duo, who are both very fast and technical, but Van Dijk is built differently; he had 7 ball recoveries and one interception, and was able to trap the opponent offside twice.
He won 6 of the 8 duels on the ground or in the air, all and all while having 94% passing accuracy (102/109). He led the defense and helped his keeper to have another clean sheet in the Champions League as Liverpool won the game 2-0.
The second leg was where Liverpool’s defense was really put to the test. Villarreal had nothing to lose so they were all-attack. They managed to catch Liverpool by surprise and score in the opening minutes once and late in the first half once again to make the game 2-2 on aggregate.
But Van Dijk and his fellow Merseysiders were not ready to lose. They bounced back phenomenally and scored three times in the second half to reserve their tickets for Paris on May 28th. Virgil Van Dijk also managed to forget the first half and perform at the highest level in the second half.
He has 8 recoveries, 6 clearances, 6 aerial duels won, and he passed 6 accurate long balls forward, while he never lost the ball or gave it to the opponents during 90 minutes. Another impressive stat for the Dutchman is that he has now played in 8 matches in this season’s Champions League as a central defender and was punished with a yellow card only once during 720 minutes of football.
Van Dijk now gets ready to face their biggest opponent yet, to win the crown jewel of European competitions against Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
Full name: Riyad Karim Mahrez
Date of birth: 21 February 1991 (age 31)
Place of birth: Sarcelles, France
Height: 1.79 m (5 ft 10 in)
Current team: Manchester City
Another Manchester City player that played really well but eventually got eliminated to the miracle Real Madrid was able to pull off isRiyad Mahrez
Mahrez started both matches in the semi-finals and had a huge rule in City’s dominance when in possession. Mahrez has not been Guardiola’s first attacking option in the Premier League this season as he has only started 13 out of 34, but Mahrez showcased his brilliance in all the games he played.
He has influenced 33 goals in all competitions directly, either by scoring or giving out the assist, a number that is above many top European strikers.
His unique style of play allows to him break any defensive line and find spaces that are left out. He plays as a right-winger and he is one of the few players that Guardiola doesn’t change their position as he is comfortable and efficient in his place.
Unlike the Premier League, the Algerian who joined the squad in 2018 for a whooping €68 million has started in all 12 games in the Champions League but one. He scored 5 goals during 6 matches in the group stage and started the knockout stage with a goal and assist against Sporting CP.
Against Real Madrid, Mahrez showed his value very soon; he took the ball, dribbled past Mendy, and crossed the ball with an outstanding precision to Kevin De Bruyne who made the game 1-0 to City only 2 minutes after kick-off at Etihad.
Mahrez continued to irritate Madrid’s defense throughout the game either by dribbling on the left side and cutting inside the box or by acting as a decoy runner to exploit the space for his teammates to make the run.
It was the first that helped City score their first and the latter that helped City score their third goal of the game. It was not only his attacking awareness that helped City win the game but also his aggression in defense and pressings; he completed 8 ball recoveries from Madrid. Mahrez finished the game as the third highest-rated player for Man City, behind Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
He continued his grand performance in Spain and at the Bernabeu Stadium. During the first half, Mahrez was able to penetrate through Madrid’s defense a couple of times, the reason being that with Kyle Walker coming back to play as a right-back, Mahrez was able to go forward and cut inside more freely as he was sure that Walker was there to support his runs and fill the gap between midfielders and strikers.
Mahrez finally stung Real Madrid with a goal in the 73rd minute of the game with a beautiful and powerful shot just outside the 6-yard box in what was supposed to be a dagger into Madridistas’ hearts. Mahrez was later substituted out of the game for Fernandinho in what is believed to be a tactical decision by Guardiola to strengthen his defense.
Clearly, a decision that failed instantly as Real Madrid was able to score twice in the dying minutes of the game to force the game into the extra time. One of few decisions Guardiola might regret doing.
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