It was “important for Ukrainian football” that Shakhtar Donetsk beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, according to their coach Marino Pusic.
It has been since 2014 that Shakhtar has played home games away from their Donbass Arena in Donetsk, which is now controlled by Russia.
But the fact that the game was in Germany, hundreds of miles away, didn’t stop Danylo Sikan from scoring a famous goal in the 40th minute to beat Barcelona.
“Unfortunately, because of the situation in the country, you can call this a home game but for us it is a tremendous part — the travelling, and sometimes we need one or two days extra to recover of course,” stated Pusic.
“It’s not that simple… For Ukrainian football, it’s also important to play for the country in Europe, like we did tonight.
Barcelona is still in first place in Group H, two games ahead of second-placed Porto, who beat Royal Antwerp 2-0. However, Barcelona lost the chance to secure their spot in the round of 16 with two games to spare.
“Today is a missed chance after two years without making it to the last 16,” said Barça coach Xavi Hernandez.
Shakhtar’s chances of making it to the next round got a boost when they got six points. They are now also in the best situation to finish third, ahead of Antwerp, and move on to the Europa League.
“It would be great if we made it to the last 16!” To stay in Europe would also be a huge accomplishment for this club in those conditions, if not even more so,” Pusic said.
Barcelona had won their first three games this season after failing to get out of the group stage for two years in a row.
But Shakhtar played well right from the start.
In the first game in October, Barcelona missed some great chances, but this time, Pusic’s team stopped the guests, who only had one shot that went in.
Shakhtar made Marc-Andre ter Stegen make the first save of the game. Mykola Matviyenko got in behind Joao Cancelo and shot from close range, but ter Stegen saved it.
Ilkay Gundogan and Raphinha hit the post from far away, but Barcelona didn’t pose any danger. On his return to Germany, veteran striker Robert Lewandowski was terribly detached.
The forward who used to play for Bayern Munich hasn’t scored in any of his last six games for Barcelona. This is his worst run of goal-scoring form in over ten years.
– Sliced open—The home team took the lead a few minutes before halftime when Giorgi Gocholeishvili took advantage of Marcos Alonso’s mistake on left back for Barcelona. He easily saw through the guests.
When the full-back crossed the ball, Sikan beat Andreas Christensen in the air and hit a shot that Ter Stegen couldn’t reach.
Early in the second half, Gocholeishvili was blocked by Ter Stegen, and Shakhtar picked up where they left off.
Just before the hour mark, Xavi changed things by bringing on Pedri and speedsters Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal. He did this to try to wake up his team’s dull performance.
Barcelona was better, but not bright enough. Dmytro Riznyk, the custodian for Shakhtar, had a quiet night.
Newerton, Shakhtar’s newest young Brazilian winger, scored an amazing second goal in the dying minutes, but it was called offside. It would have been a great way for Pusic’s team to end a great night.
Barcelona had seven minutes of extra time, but they still couldn’t find a way to win. Felix tried to get a penalty after being clipped on the edge of the box, but his request was turned down.
The third-placed Ukrainian winners were very happy when the game was over. They are now only three points behind Barcelona, who will host Porto in their next winners League game on November 28.
Pusic was proud of his team’s defence and said, “We take things one step at a time and stay humble.”
“We like to attack, and we had some good moments tonight, but setting up the game first.”
“If you concede easily at this level there is not a high chance you will win.”
The defender for Barcelona, Oriol Romeu, said that his team needed to take a good look at themselves after a bad game.
He told Movistar, “Every loss is a lesson.”
“We have to be self-critical and see what we did wrong, to correct it quickly.”