Man of the Match: If Fernandinho didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, his contributions would been lost in the result. The veteran distributor was in stellar form, attacks moving back to him from the flanks finding another point of pressure within two touches from the 27-year-old.
Having spent the last seven seasons in Donetsk, it was only right that the team’s midfield linchpin scored in such a memorable win, the Brazilian finishing just inside Petr Cech’s left post on a 52nd minute counter that he started.
Packaged for takeaway:
- This was more than an upset for Shakhtar. Perfect in Ukraine and coming off a draw at Juventus, this result was a statement to a Champions League culture that props the biggest names up center stage. The message: This team is capable of transcending their mid-level power status.
- Though there were stretches where Chelsea played their hosts to a standoff, the Blues were never the better side. In contrast, for large swaths of this match before taking a decisive lead, Shakhtar was dominant, their passing and movement cutting Chelsea’s midfield and defense apart.
- Were it not for some timely stops from Petr Cech, the Ukranians would have put this match away early. But strong saves in the 29th, 38th, 30th, and 42nd minutes kept Chelsea within reach.
- Buy that time, the home side was already up one. In the third minute, Chelsea’s inability to clear a throw launched through their penalty area gave Alex Teixeira a chance at the far (right) post. Putting his shot through Ashley Cole’s legs and under Cech’s right hand, the Brazilian attacker gave Shakhtar an early 1-0 lead.
- John Terry also had a hand in keeping the Blues close. Suspended on the home front and no longer playing for this national team, Chelsea’s captain was well rested for tonight’s game. The fresh legs showed as Terry spend a lot of time cleaning up for his teammates, kept busy be ineffectual nights from David Luiz and John Obi Mikel.
- Early in the second half, the damn broke. Eden Hazard had a ball taken off him by Fernandinho. A quick counter from Shakhtar ended with Luiz Adriano laying a pass off into the right of Chelsea’s penalty area, Fernandinho trailing for an uncontested shot. Cech had no chance.
- Shakhtar got strong performances from defenders Darijo Srna, Razvan Rat, and Oleksandr Kuchar, while goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov made a number of strong first half reads to come play long passes sent into his area.
- But this wasn’t a great performance from Chelsea. On other nights (against lesser opponents), they could have still snatched three points – a moment of brilliance obscuring an otherwise lackluster effort. Tonight, they were played to the edge of the park, even if a late Oscar goal created a deceptively close final scoreline.
- Rather than dwelling on Chelsea’s few deficiencies, this night should belong to a Shakhtar team that’s finally given spectators reason to sit up and take notice. Their draw at Juventus didn’t do it, nor did their previous run to the final eight. Today, they beat one of the world’s most famous teams, a club that happens to hold UEFA’s Champions League trophy. That should open some eyes.
- The win leaves Shakhtar on seven points and at the top of Group E through three rounds. With Juventus stumbling to a 1-1 in Denmark, Shakhtar are strong bets to make the knockout round, especially if they can (at least) draw with Juve at home in round six.
- For Chelsea, the performance is more disappointing than the result. For a number of reasons (covered in the preview), the Blues were likely to come out flat. That’s what happened. While it’s unclear they would have beaten Shakhtar under any circumstances, they have reason to put this performance behind them and concentrate on Manchester United.
Various nations are still mourning their failure of missing out on the 2018 World Cup, but arguably none bigger than powerhouse Italy.
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The Azzurri, who lost to Sweden in a UEFA playoff series in 2017, will not take part in soccer’s most-prestigious competition in Russia for the first time since 1958.
Former manager Gian Piero Ventura has received heavy criticism for the nation’s failure, and stepped down from his role as head coach immediately after Italy’s dismissal from World Cup qualifying.
A familiar face could now be in line to replace Ventura though, as Football Italia reports that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could make a return to the Azzurri.
Conte remains under contract at Stamford Bridge, however, Chelsea’s dip in form this season after winning the title in 2016/17 has many speculating that the Italian won’t survive to coach the Blues next year.
Meanwhile, Italian legend Andrea Pirlo has also expressed his interest in joining the technical staff if Conte is appointed.
The two have a close history together from their days with the national team and at Juventus.
In addition to Conte, Carlo Ancelotti is reportedly being considered for the job as well, and Pirlo is believed to be willing to join the managerial staff is the former Bayern Munich coach is hired.
A former Sevilla star is training in MLS, as the veteran midfielder looks to continue his career stateside.
Diego Capel was spotted training with the Seattle Sounders on Thursday, despite club manager Brian Schmetzer initially playing coy on who the player was.
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“We have a player that’s in camp,” Schmetzer said. “He’s a good player. He’s probably worn the number 10 in his career. Maybe as a youth player. Maybe it’s just a player borrowing Nico’s jersey.”
The Sounders have suffered several major injuries in their attack to start the 2018 MLS season, which also contributed to the team’s derailment in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
While Capel traditionally has played on the wing throughout his career, the Sounders could use all the help they can get in the attacking third.
Jordan Morris has already been ruled out for the season with an ACL tear, while Nicolas Lodeiro and Will Bruin are currently sidelined for the club with respective injuries.
Capel came up through the ranks of Sevilla, while also playing for notable European sides such as Sporting Lisbon and Anderlecht.
The 30-year-old last played for the Belgian side in 2017, but has been a free agent since.
A roundup of Friday’s international friendlies….
England suffered an early setback in Holland after Joe Gomez limped off the pitch with an injury. However, the Three Lions bounced back with a 1-0 victory when Jesse Lingard struck after halftime.
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A drastic second-half turnaround for Colombia gave the South American side a 3-2 victory over France. Olivier Giroud and Thomas Lemar had Les Bleus out in front in the first half with a 2-0 lead, but the Colombians responded with three unanswered finishes to grab the win.
Mohamed Salah‘s second-half strike wasn’t enough to pace Egypt due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s late brace for Portugal (his 80th and 81st international goals), while Victor Moses‘ penalty kick helped Nigeria top Poland.
Meanwhile, Brazil picked up a convincing 3-0 win over this summer’s hosts Russia. Barcelona teammates Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho each scored in the second half, after Miranda opened the scoring for the Selecao.
Germany and Spain settled for an exciting 1-1 draw, while Argentina topped Italy, 2-0, without Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero in the lineup.
Below are all the scores from today’s friendlies involving teams that will play in Russia this summer.
Portugal 2-1 Egypt
Argentina 2-0 Italy
Germany 1-1 Spain
Netherlands 0-1 England
Poland 0-1 Nigeria
Scotland 0-1 Costa Rica
France 2-3 Colombia
Uruguay 2-0 Czech Republic
Japan 1-1 Mali
Russia 0-3 Brazil
Saudi Arabia 1-1 Ukraine
Greece 0-1 Switzerland
Tunisia 1-0 Iran
Serbia 1-2 Morocco
Peru vs. Croatia — 8:30 p.m. ET
Mexico vs. Iceland — 10 p.m. ET
Joe Gomez‘s World Cup hopes may have taken a major hit on Friday after the Liverpool defender exited England’s match against Holland after just 10 minutes.
[ MORE: USMNT releases new kits ahead of Paraguay friendly ]
The extent of the 20-year-old’s injury is unknown at this point, but the Reds defender was in noticeable pain as he limped off the pitch at the Amsterdam Arena.
Gomez was replaced by Leicester City center back Harry McGuire following the stoppage.