Archive for the ‘Shakhtar Donetsk’ Category

The Champions League last 16 draw is complete and the results are official. Kudos to you if you actually woke up at 4 am this morning to catch it live (you’re a true soccer lover in our book).

Oddly enough, it was the exact same outcome as Wednesday’s rehearsal. Yes, we too are trying to figure out the math behind those probabilities, still working on it though.

Nonetheless, here are the results:

Real Madrid vs Manchester United
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Milan vs Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Celtic vs Juventus
Porto vs Malaga
Valencia vs Paris Saint-Germain
Galatasaray vs Schalke

Arguably, the road only gets harder from here on. With the most talked about pairing this morning: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United. With both the English and the Spanish media calling it ‘mouth-watering’, but whether or not it’ll live up to its description only time will tell. On paper at least it does appear to have all the ingredients for a great showdown.

Not only because they’re both strong teams, but also because there’s a brief, yet exciting history behind the two clubs. Both teams haven’t gone head-to-head for the past nine years. The last time they did meet it was a feast for the eyes with Madrid triumphing 6-5 on aggregate.

As with this upcoming match, that one also featured a Ronaldo, the Brazilian who scored a hat-trick at Old Trafford. Only this time around it’ll be Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international will return to his old playground since his move in 2009.

Not to be left out of the equation, is the face-off between old rivals Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, two of the best coaches in the game. Both are strategic and excellent tacticians with either one able to outsmart the other.

Of course, this Madrid team isn’t the same team as that of 2003, which included the likes of Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo, Carlos, Makelele. In fact, some might argue this isn’t even the same team as last year. Madrid has been struggling domestically this season and are 13 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona. Still, with its ability to play a very high-paced and attacking game, the Los Blancos will be a handful for United.

As for the Red Devils, the outcome of this phase will likely put to rest some of the criticism it’s been receiving about its strength on the European stage. This will test if United is still a powerhouse in Europe or only in the Premier League.

But with all the hype surrounding this match, let’s not forget about the seven other incredible matches in the competition.

As viewers it’s natural to gravitate to the teams we support or to the coupling of two (yet not the only) big names. Except that the most talked about coupling may or may not turn out to be the more entertaining soccer.

It seems like viewers of this sport are creatures of habit. Did we already forget about the group of death? Experts and pundits initially branded it not only as the toughest group (rightly so), but also as the one that would probably offer the most enjoyable soccer. Enjoyable? Meh! It was decent soccer, which never really lived up to expectations.

There were certainly individual teams in that group, which played exciting football such as Borussia Dortmund. But was it the best soccer in the Champions League group stage with respect to battles? You be the judge of that.

As for the Bayern and Arsenal match-up, while the former are clear favourites, one shouldn’t rule out the latter. After all, the Bavarians were upstaged at home in last year’s final by none other than Chelsea, who were the weaker team with all odds against them, but luck.

Then there’s Barcelona against AC Milan, a rivalry rich in history and championships that may prove to be a tighter race than expected. But the biggest surprise of the tournament were Celtic, which is why Antonio Conte just revealed today that he won’t underestimate them, especially after they managed to pull off a win against Barcelona.

I personally think Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk will provide viewers with some unbelievable soccer. But this is the beauty of the game as well as the Champions League. Not only is it unpredictable in nature, as last year validated, but it’s also offers something for an array of tastes.

England

Liverpool will face Zenit in the next round of Europa League.

Wenger squashes rumour, says he has the full support of the board.

Italy

Juve will not underestimate Celtic.

La Liga

Barcelona confirm Vilanova underwent surgery.

Germany

Thomas Tuchel taking Mainz 05 to new heights.

A great review of German soccer both internationally and domestically.

Bit and Bobs

Michael Cox discusses Champions League tactics.

Zidane goal in charity match.

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.

Observations

  • 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.

Three stars

1.Giorgio Chiellini

2.Leonardo Bonucci

3.Mirko Vucinic

Apparently it began from a drop ball situation following a player injury for the Danish side. Shakhtar won the ball and appeared to be passing it to the Nordsjaelland keeper Jesper Hansen following the unofficial rules of good sportsmanship, except Luiz Adriano didn’t seem to understand, and instead run past Hansen and scored (seen above).

Apparently Shakhtar’s coach Mircea Lucescu ordered his side to let Nordsjaelland score an equalizer, but then tackled the forward at the last minute, denying them a goal they would score all on their own a minute later. Anyway, weird, but probably doesn’t mean anything except Adriano is on his own planet.