By Maura Gladys
The big question for Shakhtar Donetsk entering the first leg of their Champions League tie with Roma was if their two-month layoff would leave them sluggish and out of form or refreshed and energized. It proved to be the latter, as Shakhtar stunned the home team with a 3-2 win.
Thanks to a blazing counter attack and three beautiful goals in the span of 12 minutes from Brazilian trio Jadson, Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano, Shakhtar are in great position going into the second leg of the tie.
Manager Mircea Lucescu didn’t make many tactical changes from Shakhtar’s Dec. 8 win over Braga, only replacing defensive midfielders Taras Stepanenko and Olexiy Gai with Tomas Hubschman and Henrik Mkhitaryan.
There wasn’t much action in the first twenty-five minutes of the match, but in the 28th minute, the game sprung to life. First came Simone Perrotta’s header in the 28th minute. Perrotta nodded down a Francesco Totti floater which deflected off Razvan Dinca Rat into the goal.
Shakhtar countered just seconds later when a Jadson shot from just outside the penalty area deflected off of a Roma defender and left goalkeeper Doni helpless.
Shakhtar’s overall success can mostly be attributed to their ability to defend with numbers behind the ball and then counterattack quickly, which kept the ball in Roma’s half and led to their second goal, just seven minutes after Jadson’s strike. The Pitmen won the ball in their own half, then fed Jadson with a through ball. Jadson found Douglas Costa at the top of the penalty area, who cut left past a defender and curled a beauty into the side of the net, shocking Roma and the home crowd.
But Shakhtar wasn’t done yet. Just five minutes later, Roma defender John Arne Riise, in a move that brought flashbacks from his own goal with Liverpool, inexplicably slipped in his own half, leaving the ball on a platter for Douglas Costa who squared it to Luiz Adriano who then slid it past Doni for Shakhtar’s third goal of the night.
Roma recovered from their shock in the second half and managed to put one past Andriy Pyatov, but were unable to equalize, leaving them in a shaky position going into Donbass Arena, where Shakhtar has yet to lose this season.
Jadson, Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano were the stars of the match, with Jadson and Douglas Costa contributing a goal and an assist apiece, while Luiz Adriano sealed the win. But, it was a true team victory. A solid back four and a defensive midfield provided the pressure and created several breakout opportunities that allowed the Brazilians to run free.
This was an incredibly deserved win for Shakhtar. They played smart, creative football, and worked the counterattack brilliantly. Things are looking bright for the second leg as well. Come March 8, they’ll be just starting league play, which will hopefully elevate their form even more. If they can avoid injury and maintain their impressive play over these next three weeks, Shakhtar will be in a great position to secure a spot in the Champions League final 8.