Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea – Eastern Promises, Brazilian Realities

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When will it end? Is Chelsea forever scourged by an unequivocal marriage to the issue of racism? Some would surely like to have it that way. Perspective is a powerful thing, and a rigid degree of perspective is needed to counter the myopic stance of the institutions entrusted with supposedly embattling and eradicating an issue that does not belong in the 21st century.

The Martin Luther Kings, Desmond Tutus and all those who dedicated their lives in the crusade against real racism would scoff at the substanceless attempts by football’s domestic and continental legislators. The latter, in particular, continued its thinly veneered policy of imposing laughable fines against national footballing associations for vituperative supporters.

On virtually every major issue, from being the torchbearer on the fight against mass racist behaviour to modern technology, UEFA has demonstrated its antediluvian ways; an institutional thinking that belongs in a bygone era. What happened in Serbia against the England under-21s was far worse than a man’s single isolated moment of madness because it is endemic and representative of a wider undercurrent almost encouraged by daft sanctions.

If reports are to believed, the fines handed down to John Terry and the Serbian FA share a 200,000 pound discrepancy. Yes, it was the club itself that decided to take internal action against Terry, but the pressure-makers, a powerful anti-Chelsea lobby, got their way.

But Terry still remains captain of Chelsea coming into the match in Ukraine. A major loss in their book, I’m sure.

Chelsea have never faced Shakhtar Donetsk and the money and direction of coal magnate Rinat Akhmetov will ensure that the city of Donetsk, its magnificent stadium, and perhaps even imitators of considerable ambition across the Eastern European state, continue to host Champion’s League nights for the foreseeable future. Interestingly, Akhmetov’s fortune is four billion dollars greater than that of Abramovich. They have both spent heavily to procure a very similar ilk of talent.

Privy to the aesthetic nature of the game under Vialli and Ancelotti, the form on display under the club’s current Italian manager is noticeably distinct: a canvas where seemingly uncomplimentary shades of eye catching colours flirt to form what we all hope will be a masterpiece appreciated during – and immortalized after – its time.

While optimism was justifiably abundant coming into the match, wisdom dictates that European nights transform teams and fortunes into markedly different propositions. Coupled with the numbers – Chelsea have only two away wins in eight in the Champions League; Shakhtar have three wins and one draw at home to English opposition alongside 12 consecutive wins out of 12 in their domestic league – this was certainly no excursion to White Hart Lane. In fact, a rare few Eastern outings offer anything less than a formidable and often frustrating challenge.

Team selection

Robbie Di Matteo does tend to favour a thicker skin in Europe – and understandably so. Eden Hazard, like in Copenhagen, was dropped. Frank Lampard his replacement. Poignantly, Oscar is favored to Hazard when the team might have to perform the dark arts of years prior. The jury has still not reached a verdict on which of the two offers more in terms of outright grit. A resilient Manchester United five days away surely also weighed on the decision.

Gary Cahill stepped out for John Terry, who really should take a page from Al Pacino’s character in Scarface and reveal on his undershirt an inscription that reads, “Say goodnight to the bad guy,” every time he leaves the pitch away from home. To further quote Tony Montana: “You need people like me so you can point your fucking fingers and say, ‘that’s the bad guy!’” Rather fitting.

However, isn’t Cahill, after his titanic performance against Tottenham, deserving of a start in this match? In such trying circumstances, playing Terry is somewhat of a gamble. On one hand, an unwavering ability to remain unfazed allows him to rise highest to score winners from innocuous set pieces and captain his team to thumping victories – as is often the case – while on the other, Terry can misstep badly, as he did against Robin Van Persie’s hat-trick-ladened afternoon at the Bridge this time last year. The odds are certainly on his side, though.

Lastly, Juan Mata has reached the untouchable echelon and Fernando Torres does not have the stamina of the stallion to sustain a never-ending starting role.

First 45

Two confident, in-form teams set the pace early on and one could not help but notice the overwhelming Brasileiro nature of, well, São Donetsk. Indeed, Chelsea happily carries a Brazilian contingent, but the recruitment policy at the Donbass Arena is clear.

A rather open start to a continental tie led to some shoddy defending at the back with only three minutes played. David Luiz failed to clear and Terry put on his best impression of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, raising both arms – and the fans’ eyebrows. The perturbed decision by Terry to do so probably would’ve forced the obnoxiously groomed referee to give a penalty had the ball not bobbled onto Alex Teixeira, who finished with the assured precision that comes when playing the European champions coming off a draw with the Italian champions and basking in the adrenaline of a commendable domestic winning streak.

Chelsea’s response was swift but fruitless and thoughts shifted towards Atletico Madrid’s rampancy given that Shakhtar were playing an equally organized, lethal game with passes were played to the feet of a thoroughly-drilled side.

We weren’t as limp as in Monaco, but Ramires looked the best outlet and I’m inclined to credit Shakhtar’s straight lines of defensive organization for closing down our most potent threats rather than declare it a scathing indictment of an insipid side of the Matteoan Chelsea.

The impressive Willian, who was linked with an arrival to AVB’s Chelsea, caused a significant degree of angst by cutting in from the right. Neither of the right-sided defenders nor the shielding midfielders picked up his movement and decision-making. When a player says a day prior to the match that it would be “really cool” to play for Chelsea, he is going to treat this match as a rehearsal of sorts. Close him down.

An awkward fall soon forced Lampard off and the results of a calf scan are still to be released. Was this mere wear and tear or a sign of an aging legend in his last throes? The injury only accelerated the inevitable substitution and Hazard entered the fray, reverting Chelsea to an almost identical side that seamlessly came from behind in North London. An instant impact from ‘Aza with two crystal ball passes. One wonders whether Robbie got it wrong by fielding a cautious side from the start.

By the end of the half, the growing pains of Chelsea’s new found dynamism were confirmed. The debacle against Atletico Madrid was unfortunately not an anomaly. Rather, we seem incapable of coping with well-organized, counter-attacking sides who know how to keep the ball, particularly in the opposing third and managers who have done just a little more than their homework. Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar’s Romanian manager, did not flinch even once on the touchline because his game plan, like that of Diego Simone’s, was tailor made to expose Chelsea. The rest of Europe is surely taking note as well.

Were it not for Petr Cech, the scoreline would’ve surely been damning. Utterly outplayed and dominated. Shakhtar’s high level of comfort was exemplified by one of their players on the bench, seated relaxed and covered in what appeared to be his grandmother’s intricately knitted woollen quilt. That’s too comfortable for a third matchday in the Champions League.

Second 45

A draw would be a blessing. While Hazard squandered a chance on one end, his inexperience told as he lost possession in a part of the pitch he should have never had the ball to begin with. Shakhtar broke decisively and the star of the evening, Fernandinho, finished with the same fervour as his compatriot earlier.

We can never underestimate what it means for the Shakhtars of this world to dismiss the title holders in such ruthless fashion; for the Brazilian players of the Ukrainian side to show up their more celebrated countrymen; for a Ukrainian oligarch to smirk at his Russian counterpart; for Lucescu to galvanize his reputation.

Some of the finest young Brazilian talent was on show in Donetsk and the home side’s Selecão outshone Chelsea’s trio wholeheartedly. Fernandinho, in particular, had clearly not been identified as a threat worth picking up because the red carpet was laid out  for his bursts from midfield. A bulldog in the centre of the park winning back possession, gnawing away at our paltry attempts of inspiring a comeback, and an absolute bloodhound in and around the box.

That’s not to say Chelsea did not have some rather decent chances. The failure to capitalize, however, typified the balance of power on the night.

Shakhtar also knew how to see this game out. Hazard was surrounded at every opportunity and Torres was forced wide and pressured into frustration.  Notice I have not mentioned him until now despite one of his worst performances in a Chelsea shirt. His touches were schoolboy and decisions baffling.  But, as mentioned earlier, he will be run into the ground if plans aren’t made to maintain an option besides Daniel Sturridge as a lone wolf up front. Could Victor Moses really have done much worse leading the line yesterday?

Perhaps the most encouraging – and endearing – quality was Chelsea’s refusal to leave Andriy Pyatov a clean sheet. Goal difference could also very well be a deciding factor in this increasingly unpredictable group. Commandant Ivanovic (who else?), staying true to this moniker, powered through the defence when all hope seemed to be lost to cut back splendidly for Oscar to keep it civil. Three goals with three shots on target for our Brazilian playmaker. Too little, too late. Anything else would have been deeply unjust on Shakhtar, their preparation, execution and commitment.

It is telling that Chelsea looked disjointed from the start when both Terry and Lampard are in the side. Then again, as I said, this was no excursion to White Hart Lane.

Two must-win home matches and an away trip to Turin will decide this season’s group stage fate. Juventus may just prove to be crucial and, if the current group standings are any indicator of what may be, the Italian or European champions might well be out come the 90th minute mark on matchday six.

Any loss is not be taken lightly at this point in proceedings, but it was effectively a repeat of Leverkusen and home form should see RDM and Co. through if feasible solutions are found to counter Simeone and Lucescu’s perfected attacking template that will surely be emulated, perhaps even by Manchester United.

An indisputable setback for a team whose promise was expected to revel against stern opposition in the East, but the Brazilian realities were something else altogether.

Fernandinho anyone?

Player ratings

When you win as a team, it would be unfair to brandish an inequitable judgement of performance. By the same token, you can most certainly lose as a whole – and Di Matteo’s boys were collectively beaten. No outfield player delivered a match-winning display. Cech, however, warrants a 10 for keeping it at 2.

Man of the Match

Partially: Petr Cech.

Realistically: Fernandinho.

The press reports

The Daily Telegraph, John Percy: “The challenge of breaching Shakhtar’s Donbass Arena fortress proved a bridge too far for Chelsea and a returning John Terry, and despite their effervescent start to the season manager Roberto Di Matteo is now facing a crucial three games in his bid to defend the trophy.”

The Independent, Simon Johnson: “Chelsea are facing a battle to avoid becoming the first holders of the Champions League to fail to progress beyond the group stages after a woeful defeat in Donetsk.”

The Guardian, David Hytner: “The surprise at the end was how narrow it was. Shakhtar missed chances, Petr Cech distinguished himself in the Chelsea goal and it was Oscar, stealing in to meet Branislav Ivanovic’s cross, who reduced the deficit and sparked brief alarm inside a jubilant stadium. An outlandish escape for the visitors, however, was not to happen.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “An impressive Shakhtar Donetsk side inflicted our first Champions League defeat under Roberto Di Matteo, scoring early in each half.”

The goals

3′ Teixeira 1-0
52′ Fernandinho 2-0
88′ Oscar 2-1

There are 28 comments

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  1. mark_25

    Good stuff Vik.
    We did get overrun a bit last night but we did last year by Naples, Benfica etc. so nothing’s really changed.  It means qualification will go down to the last game for an evening of excrutiating tension but hopefully not agony.

  2. Blueboydave

    I tend to agree that we will still qualify from the group, hopefully needing very little from the last game.

    On the wider point, given that we were outplayed again pretty much throughout and both sets of Mancs have been made to look inept repeatedly in CL games this season, is it time to start admitting that the EPL’s finest is perhaps not quite as gobsmackingly brilliant in quality as Sky’s breathless commentators and pundits [or indeed MOTD’s equivalent] would have us believe each weekend?

  3. Vik Sohonie

    Cheers, Mark. 

    Also, great work for the image Nick.  Never understood how he dug his fingers so deep into his throat. 

  4. GrocerJack

    Cracking work Vik, and for the most part I agree. For me it smacked of Super Cup arrogance on our part plus a little too much confidence after Spuds. 

    Its a kick in the arse and a good time for one, when it doesn’t do too much damage. Lets hope lessons are learned.

  5. Blue_MikeL

    Torres Terry were utter rubbish and I am glad report has mentioned it. I don’t know what plan have to be made for Torres apart from leaving him on a bench in a park somewhere far from football stadium. He has managed to loose every ball he received. he is going from bad to worse and there is nothing new there. He scores to lesser teams and struggles with anybody who puts even minimal pressure on him. Terry and Lamps well nothing new. I still believe Lamps might feature from time to time, but Terry… I am not sure.     

  6. mark_25

    After City and Arse’s poor displays it looks like once again we’ll have to take on the mantle of flying the flag for the Premier League.

    • Blue_MikeL

      He can go and take Nando with him. Nobody insulted him and nobody wanted him to leave, but, if, I repeat, if he wants to play it this way he can go. I would have suggested him to remember all the controversies he was involved in. For the last five or six years he was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, so, if he decided that he is offended and Chelsea do not support him he is an accomplished idiot and he he can go.  In this rhythm very soon there will be player who don’t want to shake his hand in every PL team. 
      Fucking hell I want to look in the eyes of that person who decided to buy Torres for 50 mil and Lukaku for 20 mil. Bloody hell 70 million quid and we are freaking strikerless!!! For that money we could get two – three great strikers and not two useless twats.  

  7. ChrisE_UK

    …one German who hasn’t got over May 19th yet!From Time 10:05:Former Barcelona star Bernd Schuster has criticised Celtic for their tactics in the 2-1 Champions League defeat at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night and claimed the Hoops do not deserve to be in the competition.
    Celtic were widely praised for their display but Schuster was quoted in the Scottish Sun as saying: “I’m fed up of seeing these type of matches. There should not be teams like Celtic in the Champions League.
    “We saw it last year with Chelsea. It was a very bad example for football and it is regrettable that they became European champions.” 

    • Blue_MikeL

      These people (Johan Croif, Shuster) and other mupets make laugh of themselves and nothing else. German used to demonstrate defensive football and  win on penalties for decades, so what the hell he is talking about? What subs Bayern made after they scored one goal against Chelsea, does he remember? 
      Yeeppp took off striker and brought in defensive player. They didn’t run to attack and score more, so what the hell he is talking about? Bloody clowns.  

  8. WorkingClassPost

    Well summed up Vik, a timely warning rather than a total mashup. 
    We could’ve got on the score-sheet earlier, but it still looked as though Shaktar would’ve just re-doubled their efforts and pulled us back whatever – we probably needed a couple more than them to get a result there.

    The only bit of consolation is that so far teams have needed to play really well to beat us, and by the law of averages, that should keep us in good stead if we maintain that sort of form.

    Not sure what Bert Scheister was on about, sour German grapes making a crappy Rhine whine I guess.

    Off to Waterlooville in a mo (the missus made a visiting friends arrangement without looking at the football calendar) which means I may be forced to watch at the home of an Arsefan [only marginally better than at a mancs], so the guys better pull out all the stops to get a result, or I’m gonna be double whammied!

  9. Blue_MikeL

    Have my favorite Chelsea shirt on me since morning. Really nervous about this game.
    Keep The Blue Flag Flying High !!!     

  10. lamps

    it was a disgrace for sure………… robbed of 3 points……. just when we were really dominating he sends off ivan when he should have given yellow, torres decision  was laughable there was definite contact for sure… and to top it off ……………….. a goal that was not…………… ref cost us the game.

  11. SweetDairyAir

    I’m so angry at the performance from the officials today. At least we played well after the first 25 minutes, creating enough chances to win fair and square if it weren’t for Clattenberg and co. It only took Man Utd an own goal, 2 red cards and an offside goal to beat us! Good for them! Title challengers indeed.

    Also I’m already seeing Man Utd fans bring up Drogba’s offside goal in Carlo’s first season that effectively won us the league, conveniently forgetting Macheda’s handball goal. They also forget Welbeck’s dive against us last year for the penalty. They really do get a lot of decisions in their favour. The sooner Fergie retires and referees stop being such giant fucking pussies towards Man Utd, the better.

    At least we’re still top. And we get to see if Sturridge can hold his own up front. But I’m feeling so bitter right now. I need to go find something to watch so my brain can forget about what happened just now.

  12. Blue_MikeL

    Last season at Old Trafford two goals from offside, today another goal from offside. What the f…. is going on here?  Yet again outdone be referee. Utter cuntery  

  13. Benjami

    I thought we were excellent today and I would rather be on 22 points rather than 21!!

    I don’t think we should blame the referee, we should blame our defense for letting us go two goals behind so early. Then as a consequence of that we ended up chasing the game, maybe getting a little over-excited, and giving away two stupid red cards.

    We can dominate midfield against teams, we just need to improve at the back and stop conceding early goals, then look to improve our out and out striker.

  14. True blue

    After we let 2 soft goals in, we finally turned up and started to play. Is the reason for our slow starts that this is still a team e gelling together? Whatever the reason, RDM needs to fix it ASAP.

    Thought we played very well, Torres though still frustrates. Can’t dribble or pass. Luiz as well misplaced many passes.

    We need a top class striker and sell Torres. I have now lost patience with him and I think it’s time to cut our losses and move on. We gambled, it didn’t work out … So lets get over it and gamble on falcao, remy or someone else.

  15. GrocerJack

    This weeks Podding Shed should be good then……..seriously done up by poor decisions and no Benjami, one was a silly red but the other wasn’t a second yellow full stop. We got caught early on but like we did aginst Spurs we came back and fully deserved the 2-2. Had we even remained at 10 men I was confident we wouldn’t lose…..but 9? Ask yourselves when was the last time United got 2 players sent off in one game, let alone at home. 

    But I’m proud because even down to 9 we still tried to play football. United got lucky today and they know it. 

    And I’m even more proud that not one single Chelsea player went to the officials after the game and shook their hands. A lovely display of their disrespect for a referee who must surely find himself at league 2 for a few weeks after that. 

  16. limetreebower

    Report submitted. As Richard II said in other circumstances: “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.”

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