After Lionel Messi's hat trick Tuesday—his second consecutive match with at least three goals—the world turned to Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo for a response. He delivered early in RM's Champions League match at Lyon, with a blistering free kick that had the Lyonnais seeking shelter and OL keeper Hugo Lloris diving weakly at a kick nearly past the goal line before he could react.

If this is how the top soccer stars on the planet are going to compete for attention, the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League may somehow top last season's intensity.