Before the start of the game, Guardiola issued a warning to his players that “Shakhtar will bulldoze us if we are not at our best”. It was a sign of unease at the Barca camp regarding this match. The match however produced an entirely different result in the end. The tie seems to have been settled at the Camp Nou with Barca converting their chances and Shakhtar missing some clear ones. It was not a one-sided match in any stretch of imagination. Shakhtar didn’t park the bus, they came with an intent to attack and were extremely unlucky not to have scored more goals. But in the end, Barca’s quality, creativity and possession were duly rewarded. Barcelona didn’t rest on their early lead and pushed through to grab as much as possible, ending up with 5 goals.
Both defenses looked unsettled
The make shift defense of Barca looks to be missing Puyol desperately. With Busquets partnering Pique, the pace at the centre of the defense is very slow. With the defense playing a high line, and the full-backs busy flying down the wings, there is always space available on either side and behind the defense. Shakhtar did manage to exploit the space with diagonal balls between and beyond the defense. Between the 8th and 13th minute, Shakhtar had three glorious chances. All one-on-one with Valdes, but they failed to convert them. Alves was the guilty party for two of those chances with poor passing and control. Messi and Iniesta managed to give the Shakhtar defense their share of problems throughout the match. Adriano was guity of some poor marking that saw Pique score off a corner.
Shakhtar are no pushovers and were unlucky
The pessimissim of Guardiola and Cruyff before the game were not without a reason. Not many team push men forward against Barca. But Shakhtar were not shy of sending men forward to attack Barcelona. They were extremely unlucky to not get more goals. They did not come to Camp Nou to park the bus and counter attack. Everytime they had the ball, they tried to play their way towards the goal. Shakhtar were constantly looking for the runs of Luis Adriano and constantly finding him through long diagonal balls from the deep. Douglas Costa, Jadson and Willian are more than capable of unlocking any defense and they did manage to make Barca run without the ball for sometime. Shakhtar commited men forward whenever they had the ball and managed to create more dangerous situations during the first half. They also managed to rattle the woodwork towards the end. But they ran out of luck as Barca managed to convert some of their chances and almost killed this tie. With a four goal deficit, it will be a tall order for them to progress to the semi-finals, but they will not be giving up just yet. Chyhrynskyi, who was recovering from injury, missed this game but will be looking to start against his former side in the return leg.
Xavi – The architect
The Messi and Iniesta Show
Against Barca, Shakhtar had more than one problem to deal with. If trying to stop Alves and Xavi was not enough, they had to dea with Messi and Iniesta as well. With Pedro starting from the bench, Iniesta was pushed wide, which is not his best position. Shakhtar’s defense had a hard time keeping Messi in check. Messi, with his freedom to roam, was all over the pitch. Messi was drawing defenders towards him with his movement and positioning. All the Argentine lacked was a goal, as he did almost everything in this match.
Iniesta – Man of the match
Iniesta scored very early in the game to calm the nerves. His passes and his ability to keep the ball even when surrounded by four to five defenders makes him a nuisance for the defense. His pass to Alves for the second goal was sublime.
Pep Guardiola, in his post match press conference, commented that this Shakhtar team was the best he has come up against this season. The final score would have had a different look had Shakhtar managed to take one of their clear chances. They could have scored more goals, which would have made this Quarter-final interesting. They now have just a solitary away goal, but will it matter in the second leg?