This first leg of Champions League quarter finals has produced some wonderful football. We saw crafted, powerful and improbable goals, comebacks and wins away from home, and a very entertaining match in Barcelona whose score doesn’t give enough credit to the visiting Ukrainian club Shaktar Donestk.
I was particularly excited for this match-up. I really thought the Brazilian carnival would produce a shock result in Barcelona, or at least stick a few into the net in a high scoring affair that would give them a chance in the return leg. But fortune wasn’t on the side of “wily old cat” Mircea Lucescu’s boys, and while they did produce some lovely attacking movement and held the ball nicely, they couldn’t finish as calmly or often as the home team.
A couple months back we took a look at some of the players in attack for the Miners and after the way they dismantled Roma over two legs I certainly didn’t expect them to be slapped with la mano from Barça. They were the first to attack, but were quickly countered and a lucky deflection fell to the feet of Iniesta, who found himself with his pick of open corners some 6 yards out.
Going down so early in the match didn’t seem to effect Shakhtar’s mentality. They had come prepared to press high and push the attack, and they did pretty well in winning the ball around midfield and keeping Barça out of dangerous areas. But Messi and company only need the slightest chance to put you down a goal (Messi being particularly focused on a night when the rest of his team seemed a little unsettled at times), and some sloppy play in and around the back gave the blaugrana opportunity enough. A prime example was Dani Alves’ goal, made posisble by the weak effort of Shakhtar’s keeper, Andriy Pyatov, on the lobbed inbound pass. Pyatov is a full 7 inches taller and must be at least 50 lbs meatier, yet instead of breaking Alves in half on what was clearly a 50/50 ball, he let the tiny right back sneak in and slot home.
Still, the final score should very well have included a few more ticks on the Ukrainian side. Willian was finding space behind the defense and Jadson had some excellent moments in the attack, but the finishing touch was not there on more than one occasion. Adriano was preferred to Eduardo with the Croatian national making a muted appearance at the end, and Jadson made way for Fernandinho with half an hour to go. Nothing came of the changes.
The return leg at the Donbass Arena is sure to have plenty more goals, and this time a few more for the opposite side, but it’s very unlikely we’ll see the team from an old Soviet mining town facing Real Madrid in the semi-final.