Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday Football Feature - The best game from midweek that you may not have seen

Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 AS Roma
UEFA Champions League
Tuesday 8 March 2011

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Reigning Ukrainian Premier League champions Shakhtar Donetsk secured a huge 6-2 aggregate victory over Italian giants AS Roma at following an extremely one-sided 3-0 win at the Donbass Arena, which saw the hosts book their place in the last eight of the competition. Donetsk had gone into the game as the most likely winners, having secured a magnificent 3-2 victory in the Stadio Olimpico back in February. Yet they refused to sick back despite having home advantage and three away goals to boot, and showed their credentials, often subject to irrational doubt in the Western media, to remain in the Champions League until the latter stages.

Shakhtar went ahead after 18 minutes, defender Tomas Hubschman flicking the ball past the 'keeper, off the post and into the back of the Roma net to make the task of progression an even more daunting one for the Italians. Young Brazilian midfielder Willian, scorer of an impressive 13 goals in 85 matches for the Ukrainian side, was the provider for Hubschman, checking back on Roma's David Pizarro before crossing the ball to the Czech international, who had positioned himself perfectly between the Roma defenders.

This goal came against the run of play, Roma having laid siege to the Donetsk goal, unfortunate not to find the opener and even more so to fall further behind on aggregate. It didn't get any better for the visitors, who missed a penalty in the 28th minute, former AC Milan striker Marco Borriello the guilty man, firing straight at home 'keeper Andriy Pyatov from six yards to hand the initiative to Donetsk. Armenian winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in his keenness to prevent Borriello reaching the ball, hauled down the Roma forward, but he was unable to take advantage of what would turn out to be a gift, and the visitor's last chance of re-opening the tie.

The home side, who became the first Ukrainian team since Dinamo Kiev in 1999 to reach the last eight of the Champions League with this impressive two-legged victory, doubled their advantage and put the tie to bed in the 59th minute. Willian, provider for the first, picked up the ball after a Donetsk corner had evaded everyone in the box, before curling the ball exquisitely into the top right-hand corner beyond the despairing Doni.

Former Arsenal striker and substitute Eduardo came on for another of Shakhtar Donetsk's young Brazilians, Douglas Costa, after an hour, and put the icing on the cake for the Ukrainian side with three minutes of normal time remaining. Having knocked the ball past his marker, Eduardo raced clear before pressurising Roma defender Philippe Mexes, who appeared to have the situation under control, into gifting him the ball by falling over at the crucial moment, before slotting calmly under Doni to seal a tremendous victory.

Between the first and final two goals Roma were reduced to ten men, rubbing salt into their already open wounds. English referee Howard Webb showed no hesitation in dismissing Philippe Mexes for the defender's clumsy foul on Luiz Adriano, and the visitors could have lost notoriously hot-headed Daniele De Rossi later on, the midfielder's elbow on Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna enough to earn him a dismissal, but missed by referee Webb. Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu acknowledged his side's man advantage as a contributing factor in the victory, as well as Roma's many mistakes, but still believed his side dominated proceedings, and will presumably be feeling confident of progressing, assuming Barcelona aren't the next hurdle for Donetsk to overcome in this incredible Champions League season.

Photos courtesy of (in order): Bettor, Reuters, Sport, Getty, UEFA, The Telegraph

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