There were five different scorers for FC Barcelona as they overcame tricky opposition with staggering ease at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. Guardiola’s men will take an apparently insurmountable 5-1 lead to Donetsk next week, although the manager will be anxious to warn against complacency.
As the Blaugrana side has experienced in the past, Lucescu’s Shakhtar team are a smart outfit, boasting plenty of pace and creativity thanks to a quartet of young Brazilians and two of Europe’s most exciting attacking fullbacks. And in truth, some stiff resistance had to be overcome in this match.
Iniesta opened the scoring in just the second minute, taking advantage of a deflected through ball to slot home at Pyatov’s near post. As ever, Barcelona were taking the initiative, pressing high and circulating the ball at speed. Messi looked lively, beating three men before having his shot blocked by a last-ditch challenge.
Still, Shakhtar possessed startling pace and directness in the counter attack; Striker Luiz Adriano spurned a one-on-one opportunity, shooting woefully wide after being released by fellow countryman, Jadson. The Ukrainian side also looked dangerous on the flanks through Willian and Douglas Costa, and Dani Alves appeared tentative as he sold Víctor Valdés short with a weak backpass.
Recovering from these early scares, Barça began to tighten their stranglehold on the game, and Shakhtar Donetsk, like so many before them, struggled in the face of such concerted pressure.
Just after the half-hour mark the home side crafted a goal of real beauty. A lofted pass by Iniesta found an angled Dani Alves runs. The Brazilian wingback controlled the ball on the penalty spot with his instep, before rounding the ‘keeper and flicking home to double the lead.
The dormant Shakhtar threat resurfaced early in the second half; Luiz Adriano lacked composure as he failed to control a dangerous deep cross.
Once again the away team was punished almost instantly, as Piqué latched onto a low corner by Xavi and sent the ball home via a deflection off centre half Rakitskiy. Minutes later, the same Shakhtar player scored a potentially crucial away goal at the other end, guiding a neat header past Valdés to make the score 3-1.
Aware that their cushion was suddenly looking a bit slim, Barcelona bit back straight away.
Just a minute after Shakhtar’s goal, Keita increased home side’s lead, lashing a ferocious first-time shot into the top-left hand corner after wonderful work by Messi on the right. The Blaugrana side pushed on and produced their best football of the night during the last half hour, with some lovely combinations.
Although largely subdued, Shakhtar Donetsk did muster one late counter attack, culminating with Luiz Adriano striking the post from an acute angle. Once again Barcelona retaliated with a goal – Alves created space on the right side of the area and found his captain Xavi, who made no mistake from 10 yards and capped a satisfying night’s work for Guardiola’s team.
1-0, Iniesta (min 2)
2-0, Alves (min 33)
3-0, Piqué (min 53)
3-1, Rakitskiy (min 59)
4-1, Keita (min 60)
5-1, Xavi (min 86)
This post was written by david