Game in a sentence
The first half had the conspiracy theorists in a tizzy, but in the end Juventus do just enough to join Shakhtar in the final 16 at the expense of Chelsea.
- The result at Stamford Bridge wouldn’t matter if Juventus scraped out a draw at Donbass Area — sight of the Euro 2012 Spain/Portugal thriller. Luiz Adriano was missing do to his unbecoming behaviour on matchday five while Claudio Marchisio was banned for accumulating too many yellow cards. The specter of match fixing had reared its head in the lead up, but Mircea Lucescu vowed to go for the win despite having already reached the knockout stage. Managers never lie.
- Shakhtar started brightly, controlling the tempo with ease.Willian versus Arturo Vidal provided some entertaining viewing early. The Chilean drew yellow for a hilarious arm pull challenge in the 8th minute. Though they were in control during the opening minutes, Shakhtar’s reluctance to shoot at the Juventus goal was incredibly frustrating to watch.
- To be fair, there weren’t many shooting avenues. Giorgio Chiellini did a terrific job marking out Eduardo in the first half. He also had to clean up for Andrea Pirlo when Willian and Fernandinho combined to make the bearded one look silly.
- Paul Pogba — Marchisio’s replacement — looked out of place. He’s drawn well deserved plaudits for his role as the Bianconeri’s super sub, but he appeared to be overwhelmed by the situation. There were several times where he was caught wandering aimlessly when Shakhtar was on the ball.
- And yet, Juventus would have the best chance in the half thanks to some clever work from Mirko Vucinic. Sebastian Giovinco accepted the Montenegrin’s pass only to roll the ball inches wide in the 29th minute.
- Olexandr Kucher was lucky to escape red after three horrible challenges in the opening 45. He left with one yellow and none of the three wishes he started with.
- In all, score one for the conspiracy theorists. Phantom injuries, a lack of urgency and a shortage of tinfoil in West London combined to feed the beast. We would need a goal to quiet the crackpots.
- Shakhtar opened the second half with purpose. Marko Devic’s insertion into the game enlivened the proceedings. A well taken free kick from Yaroslav Rakitskiy drew a clumsy save from Gigi Buffon. Chelsea fans had reason to hope.
- Juventus began to make a push of their own. Paul Pogba — who looked much better in the second half — created an excellent chance for Pirlo in the 53rd minute. Juve’s talisman would clip the far post on the attempt.
- Hope turned to misery for the folks at Stamford Bridge. A clever one two between Vucinic and Stephan Lichtsteiner resulted in an Olexandr Kucher own goal in the 56th minute. While it was initially believed Lichtsteiner may have been offside replays indicate this was not the case. Credit should also go to Sebastian Giovinco for forcing Kucher into the mistake.
- Meanwhile, Chelsea was thrashing Nordsjaelland 6-1. The Blues could score 500 goals and it wouldn’t matter. They needed two goals from Shakhtar to advance.
- Leonardo Bonucci and Chiellini weren’t going to allow it. The duo put in a typical 90 minutes of yeoman’s work in defense. Though Juventus played on their back foot for much of the match, I never got the sense Shakhtar could actually score.
- The didn’t. Juventus ride another sterling defensive performance into the knockout stages. Though vanquished on this night, Shakhtar joins them. Chelsea become the sixth Champions to crash out in the first round.