Barça 5 Shakhtar Donetsk 1

We took a giant step towards a probable Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid after seeing off a disappointing Shakhtar Donetsk tonight at Camp Nou. There have been some recent comments about the form and lack of goals from our forwards in recent games and David Villa and Leo Messi both surprisingly failed to get on the scoresheet with the goals coming from Iniesta, Alves, Piqué, Keita and Xavi.

Pep Guardiola had warned against the dangers we might face tonight and he once more seemed to find the way to get the players to go out and give everything. It is obvious that our defence is not too quick at the moment so we went out to score enough goals so that it wouldn’t matter too much if we conceded. The positions of Alves and Adriano at times are so far forward that it hardly seems right to call them full backs though the excellent physical condition of both players means they are often also seen doing defensive duties. In attack, Messi started though Pedro wasn’t considered fit enough which meant Iniesta started on the left though he was allowed a lot of freedom to roam inside while Messi played a “false” right attacking role and also drifted inside to allow Alves to attack down the right wing. As early as the second minute Adriano attacked down the left and played the ball inside to Messi who was already now on the left side of the pitch, Messi tried to slip a pass through to Villa but a defender got a foot to it but only sent the ball straight to Andres Iniesta who placed the ball home inside the near post before shoving his thumb in his mouth for a not-so-original celebration of his recent fatherhood.

Shakhtar showed some early signs of getting a goal back and Valdés had to do well to parry a cross from Willian that may well have sneaked in the goal. Then in the 12th minute Luiz Adriano got between Piqué and Busquets and away on goal, Busquets avoided giving away the foul and fortunately the Brazilian’s shot went wide of Valdés’s righthand post. Just a minute later Alves gave a poor back pass and Valdés had to come storming out of his goal to clear, the ball fell to Willian 45 yards out and again we were fortunate that his attempt on the open goal was not accurate.

These were worrying moments but then Messi began to appear: first he won a corner after a blinding run into the area, then he curled a free kick just wide and in the 19th minute he robbed the unfortunate Ishchenko – who was in the team in place of the injured Chygrynskiy and hadn’t started a first team game since November – but Messi’s attempted chip over keeper Pyatov didn’t get enough height.

In the 25th minute we almost saw a carbon copy of our goal at Villarreal but this time Piqué failed to control the ball after Busquets’s flick on from the corner, but now we were beginning to up the tempo. Messi put Alves into a great position but instead of shooting he crossed finding nobody to finish. The danger coming from Alves was constant all night and in the 34th minute he beat the offside line to get onto Iniesta’s superb pass and with the control it was enough to take the ball round Pyatov before slotting the ball into the empty net.

The second goal made things a lot easier for us and we settled down into controlling the game. There was an early chance for Luiz Adriano at the start of the second half but his control let him down, while Messi again tested Pyatov with a powerful whipped volley. Then in the 53rd minute we won another corner on the right, Xavi fired the ball in low towards the edge of the area where Piqué had arrived to turn the ball in with the help of a deflection. We are often criticised for not making more of corners but that is two goals in a week and you can be sure that both these goals from Piqué started on the blackboard.

Whether it was the third goal that made us relax I can’t be sure, but in the 59th minute Iniesta got himself booked for not retreating 10 yards at a free kick. The fact that Iniesta was our only player in danger of suspension and also the way he ignored the ref’s whistle suggest he was looking for the card. If that is the case one has to ask about the wisdom of doing this when there is still more that half an hour to play, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was this that caused our defence to lose its concentration to allow Rakitskiy in to knee the ball past Valdés.

We certainly woke up after this unpleasant surprise and we went straight up the other end to score a cracker, Messi dribbled from right to left across the edge of the penalty area drawing the defence towards him before setting up Keita who finished with an absolute screamer into the top corner. This seemed to more or less finish off Shakhtar and we went through the motions of keeping possession and occasionally we looked like scoring another thanks mainly to the continuous surges forward from Alves who again only let himself down with some poor crossing.

However, we hadn’t seen the end of Shakhtar and in the 82nd minute they were a hairsbreadth away from making it 4-2 but Luiz Adriano’s shot came out off the far post before ending up fortunately in Victor Valdés’s arms. It was a sign that it wasn’t to be Shakhtar’s day and Xavi completed their misery in the 86th minute turning in after Alves finally found his target with a cross.

It was not a classic performance but it was enough to give us breathing space for the second leg and thus perhaps rest anyone who needs it with an eye on the league clash at the Bernabeu on Saturday 16th April (kick off 10pm local time in case you didn’t know). It was also good to score some goals after our recent run, though we could certainly do with Villa getting back on track. He seemed to be doing better when he played on the left but since Adriano has come into the team Guardiola has been using Villa more in the centre forward role but without too much luck. It should just be a quesrtion of time with him. It seems we now have Pedro back though he may need another week to be fully fit again and hopefully Puyol can make it back soon as I feel we are going to need him for the Madrid games. It looks like being one hell of a month in front of us!

Barça: (4-3-3) Valdés 6.5; Alves 8, Piqué 7, Busquets 6, Adriano 7 (Maxwell m77, 6); Xavi 7, Mascherano 7, Keita 6.5; Messi 8, Villa 6 (Pedro m70, 6), Iniesta 8 (Afellay m91, –)).

Shakhtar: (4-2-3-1) Pyatov; Srna, Ishchenko, Rakitskiy, Rat; Mkhitaryan, Hübschman (Eduardo m83); Douglas Costa, Jadson (Fernandinho m70), Willian (Teixiera m75); Luiz Adriano

Goals: m2 Iniesta 1-0, m34 Alves 2-0, m53 Piqué 3-0, m59 Rakitskiy 3-1, m60 Keita 4-1, m86 Xavi 5-1.

Yellow cards: m50 Rat (misses 2nd leg), m59 Iniesta (misses 2nd leg), m66 Rakitskiy, m77 Fernandinho.

Attendance: 86,518

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9 Responses to Barça 5 Shakhtar Donetsk 1

  1. layibiyi says:

    niceee… u couldnt have summed it up better

    we were a bit complacent attimes but we got the job done with the same kind of result we would have gotten when we play at our best. most of the team were good. shakhtar are very tricky.

    we really need puyol back at his best as quick as possible. busquets has done as much as he can in that role. and mascherano’s pace has been invaluable also

    also, alves can be quite frustrating, i broke a friend’s phone mistakenly while venting my frustration at his crosses :). I hope he improves his crosses seriously cos teams need to pay for the risk we take.

  2. Edward says:

    Why such a low score for Valdez? He saved us a few times. One play sticks out in my mind: early on when Alves sent a perfectly weighted through ball to Willian and Valdez somehow made up the ground to challenge. Maybe he expects those things from Alves 😉 …

  3. caleb says:

    I also was a bit surprised to see a low rating for Valdez.

    I will say, however, we seemed a bit lucky to keep them at 1 goal. On the other hand, we also saw many chances go unfinished, so it probably balances out.

    The team came with a ton of energy tonight and you could see they were determined to run up the score. Really great motivation from Pep, or so one would guess.

    5 classicos in one year is looking almost certain at this point. Nearly unbelievable. Definitely tough, but if ever we would want to meet Real 5 times in a season, it would have to be with Pep at the helm.

    Also, if you would have told me we’d score 5 goals and ask me to guess who had scored for us, there is no way I would have seen MVP failing to add anything to the tally. Glad the midfield and defense did a great job of getting on the score sheet.

  4. blaugranaboy says:

    im with you layibi on alves. he can be so amazingly frustrating with the ample amount of balls he gets without an end product. still, he gets 2 or 3 right and they usually mean goals. his goal was top draw. he is so crucial for our system, the way he opens space and creates a constant outlet is irreplaceable. still, if he got 1 or 2 more a night, would make a big diference.

    i actually dont think shakhtar were disappointing at all. i respect them for coming to spain and actually trying to win. i couldnt have been more wrong in the preview. they stuck to their football 100%, not that antifootball disgrace that man u, chelesea, inter, and arsenal have all resorted to. (yes, i know 3 of the 4 got better results than 5-1). in fact, the score line is flattering to us. lucescu was spot on with his tactics. he knew the weakness at the back and they cut through quite a few times early on. we were very fortunate that luiz adriano was nervous or just had an off day.

    but we got the result and it basically ends the tie.

    however, i still think there are a lot of worrying signs. villa is not scoring. yes, he runs a lot, still makes many good passes and such, something ive been very clear on all year, but still, eventually you need the goals to get in. lately even his assists have dried up somewhat. messi isnt at his best, lets not try and deny this. pedro is unfit. our attack is nowhere near the lethal form they were in november/december 2010.

    but the biggest issue is the defense. honestly, if we bring that center back pairing against madrid in these next 4 classicos, i fear for the worse. puyol needs to get back, it has never been more important. it would be heartbreaking for madrid and especially mourinho to crush our trebel dreams. but without a fast center back we are going to be living with hearts in mouths much more often than we should.

    lastly, we are LOVING getting these intentional cards. lol. ive never had an issue with it no matter who does it. i think its smart and at the end of the day, its still a disadvantage.

  5. barcacentralroger says:

    Okay, now for some crazy talk. Four Classicos, how does everyone think that we should approach those games. Go for four wins or concede the league game? How will Mourinho play them?

    Also, whilst Pedro and Villa seem to need some game time, should we give Messi a week off?

    P.S. – Nic, I saw that picture of Iniesta in the Guardian and knew you were going to pick it:

    “Iniesta the Destroyer”
    “Iniesta the World Cup Octupus”

  6. Fredegar says:

    Well, a lot of interesting points to make after this game!
    The result: just fantastic, we couldn’t have hoped for more, 5-1 will be very handy to take there indeed.
    The attack: a mixed feeling. We created a huge nuber of chances, but missed a lot, and our forwards (if you except Iniesta) again could not find the back of the net. But for once the rest of the team took care of the scoring, two goals from midfield and two from defence is something we have never seen under Guardiola where something between 90-95% of the goals are scored by the forwards. And how welcome this help proved to be! A special mention to Keita for his fabulous goal, how refreshing to see a player willing to take a shoot without a first touch, and what a shoot!
    Still I would not blame our forwards a notch. The number of chances created clearly shows how important they have been in this game. Villa maybe did not score, but he didn’t receive any good ball to do it, still he worked incredibly hard in defence, and in attack his runs created plenty of space for others to exploit. As for Messi, his assists and general display were excellent, it just seems impossible he keeps NON scoring, but it’s almost written in the universe he will soon score four or five in one game to make for this dry spell (against Madrid in the CL would be a good choice if you ask me!)
    As for the defence, well… The best you could say is that they got better as the match went, they are maybe building an understanding. But my god Busquets is slow, and even his positionning is suspect. Piqué was pretty solid and his goal added to a good overall performance, but we were far too much exposed. We could easily have conceded three yesterday, and would have if Shaktar’s strikers hadn’t panicked every time they got the ball in a good position. Against Madrid, this kind of defensive display could easily cost us the tie, even if we outrageously dominate them the rest of the time. If Puyol can’t come back, Busquets has to improve a lot to make his this position. If he can’t, Pep will have to give a try to Milito or to a youngster, cos’ we can’t allow this kind of performance again… Personnally, I couldn’t burn enough candles for the health of our captain.

  7. Lee says:

    Enjoyed the article, as always, enjoyed the comments too. Valdez rocks. The goal SD scored could not be defended, so maybe you were too hard on him. Alves always overhits the early crosses. Once he gets a little tired he’s lethal though. He played a great game, as did Andres.
    Rest Messi! But we won’t. And he might end up injured chasing a golden boot just like CR7 did. Which sucks.
    Four games with Madrid. Man, that’s exiting. I can’t wait.

  8. Josher says:

    I would much prefer a half fit busquets to a fully fit milito. milito should not be played in any competitive game. he should play against teams like almeria which don’t matter. Busquets Mascherano and Pique all play like center backs with adriano and alves bombing up the flanks. Having Puyol back for the madrid battles would be nice, but I would feel just as comfortable having Busquets Mascherono and Pique defending the way they have been lately with Valdes playing the keeper/sweeper role to pick up the slack. Sure Adebayor has pickup up in form lately, but the harassment he will fall victim to when playing against Barca will not allow him or the rest of the madrid galaticos to play their game. Madrid will be left chasing shadows all 5 times this year, Barca will beat them all 5 times (providing Barca does not pick up any more devastating injuries).

  9. caleb says:

    I say there is no way we toss the league game against madrid. I don’t want us to ever give them a game. IF they dropped points again and we pick up another 3, maybe we rest a player or two, but 8 points isn’t a huge lead and if we let them simply cut it to 5 we will be putting more pressure on ourselves. It’s best to tie up the league. It’s the competition that is most in our grasp. Anything can happen in knock-out tournaments.

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