Shakhtar

Highlights: Borussia Dortmund escort Shakhtar Donetsk out of UEFA Champions League

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All of the competition, drama, and contention was at Old Trafford. It was an easy day at the Westfalenstadion.

Borussia Dortmund dominated from the opening kickoff, broke through near the half-hour mark, and finished the job just after halftime. What could have been an entertaining affair between two of Europe’s coming sides turned into a walk. Borussia Dortmund eliminated Shakhtar Donetsk, 5-2 (aggregate).

Many might see the easy defeat of a Ukrainian club by a German champion as par for the course, but consider what Shakhtar had done this tournament. They got a result at Juventus and three points at home from Chelsea, a victory that helped Shakhtar advance over the European Champions in Group E. In leg one against Dortmund, they earned a 2-2 result, another in the series of strong results that went for naught at today’s final whistle.

The biggest loss Shakhtar had suffered in the tournament before today was by one goal (to Juventus and Chelsea). Today they lost by three, a hint of how strong this Dortmund team can be.

Perhaps Dortmund’ struggles to keep up Bayern Munich in Germany have obscured their quality, but today against Shakhtar, they looked like one of Europe’s best.

It’s difficult to absorb their quality in two-minute bursts, so if you have a chance to catch the first hour of today’s game, do so. You’ll see a comprehensive performance against a talented Ukrainian champion, one that will make you ask who beyond Bayern have a better chance to win this tournament.

Check out the day’s highlights, above, courtesy of FOX Soccer.

UEFA Champions League: Late goal gives Borussia Dortmund draw at Shakhtar Donetsk

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The match may have been overshadowed by the festivities in Spain, but it played out relatively the same way. Between Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and visiting Borussia Dortmund, one team’s control met another persistence and potential, ultimately ending in a draw. But unlike the match in Madrid, the controlling side were left needing a late goal to salvage a result, with Mats Hummels’ 87th minute equalizer giving Dortmund a valuable 2-2 draw.

To say Dortmund controlled this match to the same extent Real Madrid controlled theirs would be misleading. At no point in today’s game at the Bernabeu were Manchester United the aggressor, and while the Germans were the more imposing side at points of today’s match, the second period saw the Shakhtar recover from a pre-intermission fade and assume a bigger role. Douglas Costa’s 68th minute, go-ahead goal was more Shakhtar’s coming into the match rather than a team scoring against the run of play.

The same couldn’t be said for Shakhtar’s opener. Benefitting from a 30th minute foul just outside the penalty area from Dortmund defender Felipe Santana (playing for Neven Subotic), Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna curved his direct kick over the wall and away from Roman Weidenfeller for the game’s first goal.

(MORE: Breaking down Real Madrid-Manchester United.)

Dortmund responded five minutes before half through Robert Lewandowski, who held a ball in from the right up near the penalty spot while defenders went to ground. The Polish international eventually slotted his right-footed equalizer just inside Andriy Pyatov’s left post, sending the teams into half tied 1-1.

After being dominated over the first 45 minutes, Shakhtar began the second half on more even footing with the German champions. Relying more on quick, direct movements rather than attempting to beat Dortmund at their own frantic game, Shakhtar was eventually able to create a 68th minute chance for Douglas Costa off a long ball from defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy. Winning his matchup against Marcel Schmelzer after a misread by Hummels, Costa brought the ball down before getting his foot above a high bounce, putting a go-ahead goal into the right of net.

Hummels made amends in the 87th minute when he headed home a Dortmund corner, giving the visitors two goals to take back to Germany ahead of the teams’ Mar. 5 reverse leg.

The timing of the equalizer might leave Shakhtar feeling aggrieved, but the result may have been slightly more than they deserved. A series of early close calls and near misses allowed the game to go into half even, and while the Ukrainians were improved in the second half, their control of the match never matched Dortmund’s. Shakhtar should be content with a draw and two weeks to figure out a way to improve.

For BVB, Wednesday’s result gives them ever reason to believe they’ll survive this dangerous matchup. Jurgen Klopp may feel his team could have left the Donbass Arena with a more decisive result, but two road goals and a draw given them enough to work with. They won’t have to play as well as they did today to secure passage into the quarterfinals.

Check back later this today as ProSoccerTalk drills down on both Manchester United’s visit to Real Madrid and German champion Borussia Dortmund voyage to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk.

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Shakhtar Donetsk 2, Chelsea 1

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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.

Danger match for Chelsea in Ukraine – UEFA Champions League Group E preview

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Shakhtar Donetsk caught a few eyes last match day with a draw in Turin, but coming short of a historic win over Juventus, the Ukrainian champions remaining Overlooked and Underloved ®. On Tuesday, Shakhtar get another chance to transcend their stature as plucky champions from a middle-ground league. With the competition’s holders visiting the Donbass Arena, Shakhtar have an opportunity to score one of the most important wins in their club’s history, and upset that wouldn’t be as most suspect.

That result would turn Group E on its ear. Chelsea and Juventus were picked by most to come out of this group, but if Shakhtar can fulfill their promise and get a key three points, they’ll have done most of the work needed to make the knockout round. In the process, they’ll have also pushed Chelsea or Juventus to the edge of Europa League.

Now, all they have to do is pull it off.

Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) vs. Chelsea (England)

Donbass Arena, Donetsk, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

We’ve periodically updated you on the farce that Shakhtar’s made of the Ukrainian season. Normally the Premier League comes down to the two derbies between Shakhtar and Dynamo Kyiv, but not this year. Twelve matches into the season, Shakhtar is perfect, has a 12-point lead and a +32 goal difference. They’ve lapped the field.

No player embodies that rise like Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The 23-year-old Armenian scored 13 goals in his two previous Premier League seasons. This year, he’s scored 14 times in 12 games, adding two more in Champions League. While an evolving role within Mircea Lucescu’s setup has meant more chances for Mkhitaryan, this Messi-esque goal rate has come out of nowhere.

Replicating that success against Chelsea is a big ask, but as Skahktar showed last round at Juventus, they’re capable of competing in this group. After taking a point in Turin, the Ukranian champions have carved a route into the next round, provided they stay on it. Failing to get a result against Chelsea wouldn’t sidetrack that effort, but it would leave Shakhtar open to being pushed aside if Juventus beat the Blues in November.

For Chelsea’s part, they’re coming in after a great performance at White Hart Lane, but there are a lot of circumstances conspiring against them. If the Blues weren’t playing in the Club World Cup, the trip to Donetsk would be their longest of the season. They’ve only had two days rest, much of their squad has just come back from international duty, and they have a major league match with Manchester United this weekend.

Even with some squad rotation, Chelsea will be the more talented side on Tuesday. Thanks to that superior personnel and the benefits of their formation, they’ll have fewer troubles with Shakhtar’s style than Juventus did. Still, this is setting up less like match Chelsea will win than one which they’ll try to survive.

From Shakhtar head coach Mircea Lucescu:

” I don’t want to talk a lot about their game on Saturday, because I think that at the moment we are stronger than Tottenham.”

Author’s note: He’s probably right.

From Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo:

“I remember Mircea Lucescu’s work in Italy very well. All his teams stuck to the same philosophy – they always try to play possession football. You can see how Shakhtar pass the ball. You can see the structure of the team. They are very good tactically and they have a lot of quick players.”

UEFA preview

More previews: Group E Group F Group G Group H

Nordsjaelland (Denmark) vs. Juventus (Italy)

Parken, Copenhagen, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Juventus has only lost once since the beginning of last season (May’s Coppa Italia final to Napoli), but the realities of the three-point win leave the Old Lady in need of points. After draws with Chelsea and Shakhtar, Juventus is in third place, leaving them with little margin for error in Tuesday’s match at Parken. Anything but a win will be points dropped in a race where they’ve already been drawn at home by the team most likely to take a top two spot from them.

Though Nordsjaelland’s destined to finish last in this group, they’re no pushovers. They’ve been better than their -6 goal difference indicates, Given the pace at which Juventus plays, it’s not difficult to imagine the Danish champions snatching a point, particularly if they play for it.

In both of their Champions League games, Juventus started slowly, fallen behind, and had to comeback to salvage draws. In this weekend’s big match against Napoli, they didn’t break through until making late-match adjustments. If they’re similarly slow coming into this match, Nordsjaelland could hold on for their first Champions League point. However, if Juventus is intent from the opening kickoff, they could replicate Chelsea’s result.

From Nordsjaelland head coach Kasper Hjulmand:

“The team is the star. Andrea Pirlo is the key, though, as his distribution is second to none. He is a joy to watch – at least when you are not up against him. I am not the first coach to try to find a way to close Pirlo down. It is an almost impossible task.”

Author’s note: It’s almost as if these coaches don’t have access to film of Juventus’s visit to Chelsea. Nobody saw that and wants to emulate what Roberto Di Matteo had Oscar do?

From Juventus assistant Angelo Alessio:

“I have plenty of experience and a good feeling, so I am not worried that Antonio Conte is not here for this match … Conte decides who plays depending on the tactical outlay and the opponents we face.”

UEFA preview

More previews: Group E Group F Group G Group H

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Juventus 1, Shakhtar Donetsk 1

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Man of the Match: There weren’t very many candidates from a match where everybody played well but few stood out (in a good or bad way). The biggest difference-maker may have been Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira, who got a surprise start ahead of countryman Ilsinho. Coach Mirsea Lucescu seemed to want the faster player to match up against Juventus’s defense, and it worked. Teixeira helped the Ukrainain outfit control the match’s first stanza, eventually scoring the game’s first goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Most eyes may have been cast on Cluj, Copenhagen and Lisbon, but Turin hosted Tuesday’s best match: The Italian champions versus an uncommonly strong offering from Ukraine.
  • Shakhtar was dominant at the start, Juventus able to bring few solutions to bear on an attack that saw success playing outside to wingers Willian and Alex Teixiera before cutting back toward goal.
  • That advantage may have been a product of the formation matchup we talked about in the preview. Shakhtar was able to find space behind and around the Juventus wingbacks, stretching out the Juve midfield as they played the ball horizontally. It took Juventus a while to adjust.
  • Teixiera was a surprise starter, but he proved to be a prescient inclusion. Going forward, he proved more dangerous coming in from his right wing position. Tracking back, he was able to bolster the Shakhtar midfield, often getting back as Claudio Marchisio was coming forward for Juventus.
  • In the 23rd minute, Teixiera’s inclusion really paid off. His defending created a turnover that sprung Shakhtar on the counter, and with Juventus’s midfield slow getting back, the Ukranians were able to set up their attack before Juve got back. That allowed Shakhtar to move the ball from the right, to Razvan Rat and Tomad Hübschman on the opposite flank, and eventually in to forward Luiz Adriano. Donetsk’s number nine laid it off for Willian who found Teixiera to the right of goal for an easy opener.
  • It didn’t take Juventus long to respond, and in typical fashion, it took only the slightest opening. Nice play from Mirko Vucinic (good take on a long ball, nice pass into the right of Shakhtar’s area) created a corner. On the restart, Andrea Pirlo rolled a ball to 15 yards out, where Leonardo Bonucci had curled back away from the defensive line for an open one-timer. The Juve defender rocketed a ball into the upper-right corner, evening the score.
  • For the next 30 minutes, the match was even. The game starter to luck like a typical Juventus affair, one which they would eventually snatch in the second half. That’s how it usually works with Juve: Once they’ve figured out what you’re trying to do, they can get busy implementing a plan to beat you.
  • Things changed as the match neared the hour mark. The intensity went up a notch, and the match became more open.
  • The changes left Shakhtar controlling much of the possession but Juventus generating the better chances.
  • In the 80th minute, that almost changed. Fernandinho picked up a loose ball in his half and started a break through Willian. Luiz Adriano eventually laid a ball off to Henrikh Mkhitarayan, who had the ball poked away from him by Giorgio Chiellini. Willian ran onto the ball and fired a 20-yard shot just to the right of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.
  • And what about Mkhitarayan, who came into this match with 15 goals this season? Aside from an early chance, he was quiet going forward, though he put in good work pressing Juventus’s back line. He also was seen tracking Pirlo occasionally, though Shakhtar declined to give the Juventus regista the same attention Oscar provided two weeks ago.
  • As time ticked away, the match was screaming for one team to make a big adjustment. But that never happened. Juventus swapped out their forwards in like-for-like moves. Lucescu brought on Ilsinho, his own like-for-like. Neither coach was willing to risk a big change and get burnt.
  • As a result, Shakhtar got a valuable road point while demurring on their chance to really shake up the group. Juventus saved face while dropping points. Only two rounds into the stage, both teams may have made the right choice. Their fans, however, should wonder what could have been.
  • With the win, Shakhtar is even on points at the top of the group. Juventus sits two back. Set to close the group with matches versus Chelsea and at Shakhtar, Juventus needs to take full advantage of their impending back-to-back with Nordsjaelland.