Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Irresistible Barca Set For Semis

Andres Iniesta celebrates putting Barcelona aheadCarlo Ancelotti said in the build up to the day's other quarter final match-up that Chelsea were "destined to win the Champions League," well Carlo, I'm afraid there is only one side fated to win at Wembley.

Such is the aura of invincibility around Barcelona, that most Shakhtar Donetsk fans would have settled with a loss by a margin of two goals even before kick off. Shakhtar, they said, could give Barcelona quite a run for their money in Ukraine, and with the margin low, Brazil's East European colony would have an excellent chance of progression.

However, keeping the scoreline low against Barcelona is easier said than done, as Arsenal learned on their latest ill fated trip to the Camp Nou, and within two minutes of the kick off, any Shakhtar plans of a brave nil-nil draw were vanquished. A mix up at the back allowed Andres Iniesta to steal through on goal, and the Spaniard made no mistake, slotting home his first Champions League goal in nearly two years. Barcelona had the lead, but rather than implode like many a team in the past, Shakhtar fought on bravely, nearly leveling the tie on three minutes. Willian's cross from the right looked destined to find the back of the net, but often under worked Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes was alert enough to fist the ball away.

By no means discouraged by their failure to convert, Shakhtar continued to plug away, and Luiz Adriano was guilty of missing a glorious opportunity, when he poked wide having been played through on goal.

Barca were beginning to look a little shaky, with Brazilian Dani Alves at the heart of all the home side's problems, the right back seemingly unable to complete a pass without putting his side in trouble.

Ironically, it was Alves who promptly doubled Barca's lead, latching onto Iniesta's through ball with a superb touch that took him round the goalkeeper, before calmly placing the ball into the empty net. Two up, Barca had Shakhtar exactly where they wanted, with the Ukranians now forced to push forward in search of a vital away goal.

The half ended with Shakhtar continuing to attack, Douglas Costa in particular looking menacing on the flank.

Come the start of the second half, Shakhtar fans would have been right to feel a sense of optimism about their side's chances, the Ukranians looked capable of penetrating the Barca back line, and if one goal at least could be gleaned, they'd be well on their way to the next stage.

All Shakhtar's hopes and dreams were crushed, then raised, then crushed again by the events of the first few exchanges of the second half. First, Gerard Pique scored his second goal in as many matches, thumping home a low Xavi corner. Three goals to the good, Barca were cruising until defender Rakitskiy flicked home at the near post, handing Shakhtar a lifeline. Suddenly, the tie was back on, but only for a minute, as Barcelona went right up the other end to score. Breaking into the penalty area, Lionel Messi unselfishly squared for Seydou Keita, who smashed home a laser of a shot, which flew into the top corner, and prompted wild celebrations from the Barca bench.

Shakhtar had committed the cardinal sin of letting their guard down directly following the scoring of a goal, and once again three down, there seemed no way back for the Ukranians.

Content with a three goal cushion, Barca knocked the ball around comfortably for the next twenty minutes, without making any serious sojourns into Shakhtar territory, but still limiting the visitors to only a paltry number of attacks.

Lulled into a false sense of security, Lucescu's side were cut open by Barcelona for the fifth and final time, as Xavi swept home an easy finish following some Alves trickery on the wing.

 The final whistle was greeted by a mighty roar from the crowd, perhaps emitted more in anticipation than jubilation, after seeing their side book what will be a mouth watering Champions League semi-final, against Real Madrid.

1 comment:

  1. Who do you guys think will win the second leg?