AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Fred’s vicious free kick leads Shakhtar over Roma

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Facundo Ferreyra and Fred scored second half goals to lead Shakhtar Donetsk past AS Roma 2-1 at the Donbass Arena in Wednesday’s first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Cendig Under scored his fifth goal in four matches as AS Roma did manage an away goal before the March 13 second leg in Rome.

Fred has been linked with a summer move to Man City, and the banger of a free kick showed part of the reason the Brazilian is in demand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roma is bidding to make its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal since 2007-08 when they went out at the hands of Manchester United, while Shakhtar last made the quarters only to be dismissed by Barcelona in 2010-11.

Ukrainian backstop Andriy Pyatov had an early save on Edin Dzeko off a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, two minutes after Kolarov mailed a free kick over the bar.

Kolarov and Dzeko remained big parts of the story line, though Pyatov and the Shakhtar defense stood tall.

Dzeko would wind up assisting the opener, and it was the in form Under who’d bury his chance.

Not soon after the break, though, Yaroslav Rakitskiy cued up Ferreyra for the equalizer.

And Fred but the hosts ahead with this outstanding free kick, what they’d call a “bar down bingo” in hockey.

Borussia Dortmund cruise into Champions League’s final eight, eliminate Shakhtar Donetsk

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In some ways, the match seemed the same as the one Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk played out three weeks ago, a game that ended tied, 2-2. Dortmund was again exerting control, but whereas last month’s match in Donetsek saw a quick Shakhtar side threaten BVB in transition, the German champions had an easy go of it on Tuesday. First half goals from Felipe Santana and Mario Götze had the Germans up two at half and when  Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski scored early in the second, Dortmund had their margin of victory. Making surprisingly easy work of a talented Shakhtar team, Dortmund moves into the final eight, winning on aggregate 5-2.

Most of us who had been following this Shakhtar team expected more, especially with Taison having capably replaced the departed Willian. But Mircea Lucescu’s side lacked the verve they showed in Ukraine. Before settling in after their third goal, Dortmund had heavy advantages in possession, shots, shots are target — the crude measures we use to describe the match’s tenor.

Whereas Shakhtar was able to use their counterattacking game to threaten BVB three weeks ago, today they were muted. This played out as your typical big league titan against a mid-sized league’s aspirant. Donetsk was never in the game.

It took Dortmund 31 minutes to open their account, with Santana — starting for Mats Hummels — heading a near post corner above the post-guarding defender to put BVB up 3-2. Six minutes later, a Robert Lewandwski cross was redirected inside Andriy Pyatov’s right post by Götze, giving Dortmund a 4-2 lead.

Just after halftime, a Götze shot spilled in front of goal gave Blaszczykowskia chance at an easy put back, Dortmund’s 5- 2 lead extinguishing any hope Shakhtar had of upsetting the German champions.

For a team that’s transcending their league, Donetsk’s loss leaves little tangible reward for what’s been a remarkable year. At 18-0-1, Shakhtar’s 13 points up in the Ukrainian Premier League, a circuit that used to be hotly contested between them and Dynamo Kyiv. Now left to gauge themselves against Europe, Shakhtar’s been shown to be significantly behind the continent’s best. It’s not a surprising verdict, but it’s one that leaves the club with little to show for their obvious quality.

For the victors, the decisive result is another sign they’re viable Champions League contenders. While BVB’s recent loss to Bayern was a reminder there’s still progress to be made, not many teams would have hung a three-goal victory on Shakhtar Donetsk. That they did reaffirms the idea they’re among UEFA’s best.

Some may see this result as reason to dream of an all-German final. Until BVB proves vulnerable in Champions League, there so reason that dream can’t come true.

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, Champions League: at Chelsea 3, Shakhtar Donetsk 2

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Two Shakhtar Donetsk gifts an a 94th minute winner from substitute Victor Moses took three points for Chelsea on Wednesday, the defending champions pulling even with the Ukrainians at the top of UEFA Champions League’s Group E.

Seconds away from being relegated to third place in a group that also includes Juventus, Moses headed a corner kick into the upper-right hand corner of Andriy Pyatov’s goal giving the hosts their third lead of the game.

But Chelsea would have never been in position to steal the point had it not been for two Shakhtar errors you’d rarely see in at college level. In the sixth minute, a poor backpass from defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy left Pyatov little recourse but to blast an attempted clearance off the leaping Fernando Torres, the resulting ricochet settling in the back of Shakhtar’s net.

In the 40th minute, after Willian had pulled Shakhtar even, Pyatov’s ill-placed header left him standing outside his area as Oscar put an 40-yard shot into an empty goal.

Man of the Match: It’s rare that this honor goes to a player on the losing team, but when that team has to fight back from two aberrational goals, you’re likely to see a number of superior individual performances from the team left empty-handed. On Wednesday, Fernandinho put in another great performance in Shakhtar’s midfield, Darijo Srna constantly stressed the left side of Chelsea’s defense, and Willian, our Man of the Match, gave the Blues more reason to regret not buying him this summer.

Then, the Brazilian winger was linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, though the rumor never became more than a vague link between player and club. His continued presence in Donetsk helped Shakhtar carry an unbeaten record into today’s game, a mark his two middle-of-the-area finishes nearly preserved.

In the ninth minute, Willian opened his right foot on a ball from Fernandinho, the resulting shot beaingt Petr Cech into the right side of goal. In the second half, a near identical play (this time, the ball from the right coming from Darijo Srna) gave Willian his second goal of the night.

Threesome of Knowledge: What we learned

Chelsea’s come back down to earth.

The Blues’ high-flying start to the Premier League season has long past, not only in terms of results but also form. They were second best today but, to their credit, managed to get full points. Still, Wednesday’s performance falls in line with a series of discouraging results the Premier League’s former leaders have accumulated over the last month: losing at Shakhtar; losing at home to Manchester United; drawing at Swansea City.

As they did under Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti, and Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea started the season strong. And as has been the case over recent seasons, they’ve regressed.

Resiliency rounds out Shakhtar’s contender’s resumé.

At this point, nobody questions whether Shakhtar are capable of competing in Europe. At least, on the fringes. Are they going to compete for Champions League? No, but they’re going to give somebody a lot of trouble in the quarterfinals, if not beyond.

At those levels, talent isn’t always decisive. A series of extra-athletic factors distinguish teams from each other, one of which is the ability to respond to the inevitable adversity you’ll face during a long tournament.

Today, Shakhtar demonstrated that trait, twice coming from behind on the road at the tournament’s holders, coming within minutes of salvaging a result they’d nearly given away (twice). Moses’s last gasp goal took a point out of their hands, but based on what we saw on Wednesday, time was the only thing that kept them from again responding to adversity.

Chelsea’s defense needs help.

The ease of Shakhtar’s responses has to concern Roberto Di Matteo. Except for Moses’ goal, each time Chelsea scored, Shakhtar quickly responded, basic buildup down their right leading to simple goals from Willian. Is that all it takes to breakdown a Chelsea defense these days?

The last time Chelsea kept a clean sheet was Oct. 2 at Nordsjaelland. In the five games that followed, they’ve conceded 11 goals. Handed three leads on Wednesday, they conceded two.

Giving up goals is one thing, but giving up leads is slightly different. Today, Chelsea had two chances to do as they did during last year’s run and lock down a match. That they couldn’t do so at home in an important game is more concerning than the increasingly ugly numbers.

Packaged for takeaway

  • John Terry started on the bench and was working on a stationary bike at one point during the match; however, the Chelsea captain didn’t play.
  • Ryan Bertrand got the call in place of Ashley Cole at left back, combining with Eden Hazard to create a very vulnerable left flank. Shakhtar right back Darijo Srna had his most influential match of the tournament.
  • Despite their effort, Chelsea’s midfield of John Obi Mikel and Ramires had trouble covering the space demanded of them by Shakhtar’s passing. They needed help, but with Hazard, Oscar, and Juan Mata in front of them, there was little to be had. In the second half, Oscar started dropping to Ramires’s level, the team forming a 4-1-4-1 shape with Mikel in front of the defense.
  • On an otherwise quiet day, Luiz Adriano provided some nice holdup play for Shakhtar, who resorted to using their No. 9 more as Chelsea pushed for a late goal.
  • If there were Player of the Group awards, Fernandinho would be the heavy favorite to win Group E’s.