Brazilians Fire Shakhtar Into Champions League Last 16
Inspired by Brazilians Bernard and Ismaily, Shakhtar Donetsk qualified for the Champions League last 16 with a 2-1 victory over a much-changed and subdued Manchester City on Wednesday.
First-half goals from Shakhtar’s Brazilian pair, both created by Brazilian-born Ukraine international Marlos, proved enough to ensure the Ukraine champions would go into the draw on Monday with a plum tie against the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain on the cards.
Shakhtar needed only a point to secure their progress as Group F runners-up behind City from a match that, including Marlos, featured nine Brazilians from the start.
Although City dominated possession — enjoying more than two-thirds of that — Pep Guardiola’s side were totally out of sorts and slumped to a first defeat this season.
Having already won the group and with one eye on Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Guardiola had rung the changes to his starting line-up giving precocious teenage starlet Phil Foden a first senior start.
Foden was the star of England’s Under-17 World Cup victory in India in October but was largely a spectator as the hosts dominated in their temporary home in Kharkiv.
Only three players kept their places from the side Guardiola picked to face West Ham last Sunday but it was partly thanks to one of those — Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson — that City found themselves trailing 2-0 at the break.
Shakhtar had created a few half chances without overly taxing Ederson before taking the lead with a spectacular goal from Bernard on 26 minutes.
Marlos, the orchestrator of so much of Shakhtar’s attacking thrusts, drove at the heart of a back-peddling City defence before feeding Bernard to his left.
The midfielder’s first touch was poor and took him wide, but as the City defence stood off, he cut inside onto his right foot and curled a sumptuous shot into the top corner.
If there was nothing Ederson could do about that, he was largely at fault for another compatriot finding the net six minutes later.
Ismaily beat the offside trap to run onto Marlos’s dink over the top and, as Ederson charged recklessly from his area, toe-poked the ball past the stranded goalkeeper before passing it into an empty net.
Foden created City’s best chance of the half just before the break when he slipped Gabriel Jesus in behind the home defence, but the 20-year-old Brazilian seemed unable to make up his mind how to take on Andriy Pyatov and the goalkeeper smothered the ball.
The second half was short on clear cut chances but it was yet another Brazilian, winger Taison — more than familiar on the OSC Metalist pitch having spent three seasons at Metalist Kharkiv — who twice sent thumping right-footed efforts sizzling past the post.
City finally threatened when teenage substitute Brahim Diaz scampered down the left only for his cross to be touched onto the post by Jesus.
And the Brazilian won the stoppage-time penalty, falling theatrically under negligible contact from Bohdan Butko, that Argentine substitute Sergio Aguero rammed into the roof of the net.
It will be a different City, though, that run out against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United on Sunday.