An extremely disappointing first-leg for Shakhtar Donetsk means they have it all to do in the second-leg tonight against Roma.
Shakhtar started the season in the Champions League and found themselves in a very tricky group, with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Borussia Monchengladbach.
They started the group very well however, with a 3-2 away win over Real Madrid followed by a 0-0 draw at home to Inter. Strangely, it was against Monchengladbach that they struggled, losing 6-0 at home and then 4-0 away, which put them in a tricky spot in the very tightly-contested group.
Realistically, they needed to win their last two games against Madrid and Inter, and they managed to secure another win over Real, this time coming out with a 2-0 win. Another 0-0 draw with Inter meant they finished third in the group, thus dropping into the Europa League.
This was still some achievement in itself though, considering the level of the other teams in their group. Inter Milan finished bottom and were subsequently knocked out of all European competition.
The Europa League round of 32 saw the Ukrainian champions drawn against Israeli team, Maccabi Tel Aviv. Quite a favourable draw, Shakhtar would’ve been confident they could progress into the round of 16, and managed to do so comfortably.
A 2-0 away win in Israel saw them take the tie into their own hands. Goals from Brazilians Alan Patrick and Tete saw them leave Israel with a very comfortable lead – and two away goals.
The game in Ukraine ending up being a rather simple task for Shakhtar; avoid defeat and they were through. A Junior Moraes penalty saw them win the game 1-0, and progress through to the round of 16 with ease.
Most certainly one of the more intriguing ties of the round of 16, Shakhtar were drawn against Roma of Italy. Perhaps the main reason for this intrigue is the fact that Roma’s current manager is Paulo Fonseca, the man who won 3 league titles with Shakhtar between 2016 and 2019.
The ‘Fonseca Derby’ seemed as though it could be quite a close-fought game. Roma are having a fairly solid season in Italy, but are really struggling against teams around and above them in the table. Although this would’ve been seen as a difficult for Shakhtar, there was definitely an opportunity for them to test themselves against an opposition like Roma, who are a huge club but perhaps not performing to the best of their ability at this moment.
With the first leg being in Rome, there was a real chance for Shakhtar to potentially grab a couple away goals. And so even if they didn’t manage to grab the win, they would head back to Ukraine in a good position.
This was not the case however, and Shakhtar put a in very disappointing performance. They almost seem to roll over to Roma, and certainly gave them way too much respect. One of the most impressive things about their Champions League group stage was their ability to take the game to the likes of Inter and Real, but against Roma they were very passive and offered little to no attacking threat.
A very tidy finish from Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini put the hosts 1-0 up just after the 20 minute mark, and they managed to add two more through Stephan El Shaaraway and Gianluca Mancini in the second-half.
Shakhtar were actually rather lucky to come away with it only at 3-0, and they’ll be hoping for a miracle in Ukraine tonight. It would be surprising to see Roma give up a three goal advantage however, especially as their season almost depends on winning the Europa League – with them being out of the domestic cup and unlikely to break into the top four.
The Ukrainian champions will be looking to their strong Brazilian core to pull something out of the bag ahead of tonight’s game, and it will fall on the shoulders of experienced heads like Marlos and Taison to create the opportunities to get back into the game. Perhaps the flair of youngsters Tete, Dodo and Marcos Antonio is something that they will look to switch the game on its head, but the chances of progression through to the quarter-finals is looking unlikely for Shakhtar Donetsk.