Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 AS Roma: Three stand-out performers
The remaining two matches in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 have been played. Sevilla held the Mestalla against Jose Mourinho and Manchester United while Shakhtar Donetsk hosted AS Roma at the Metalist Sports Complex.
Man United under Mourinho was never going to be the more attractive match when faced with two in-form, if less celebrated, sides facing off. While Vincenzo Montella was the more aggressive manager even though he didn't play his most prolific scorer, the two bosses in the marquee match were willing to put matters off til Old Trafford in the second leg. On the other hand, there was some swashbuckling football in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Shakhtar’s habit of knocking Roma out of the Champions League looked to have ended before half-time. The visitors were up 1-0 through Cengiz Under. The second half was more observant of tradition, however.
Facundo Ferreyra levelled off a long ball from Yaroslav Rakitskiy. Then Fred hit a sumptuous set piece to give the Miners an advantage heading to Rome, despite ceding an away goal.
Both defences were tested but the men in orange were pin-point accurate serving Ivan Ordets and Andriy Pyatov in the box. The Giallorossi defence was led by Konstantinos Manolas. Here are the three standout performers in the contest.
The Brazilian lifted and dipped a perfect strike over the Roma wall to make countryman Alisson look the fool. It was revenge for the audacious save the keeper had just made off Taison's shot from outside the box. The free-kick turned out to be the match-winner.
It also made Roma’s task in the second leg more difficult. A goalless draw would have been enough at the Stadio Olimpico, courtesy the away goal. Now the Wolves must score to push through.
Fred and Taison both defended deep but Marlos and Bernard provided width on the flanks. The set-piece wizard also contributed defensively, making five tackles. Pep Guardiola’s latest target surely has what it takes to perform in high-stakes matches.
Cengiz Under (8/10)
Note to punters. When it comes to Roma, always bet the Under. The Turk scored il Lupi's opener less than five minutes before the half-time. It was his fifth February goal in just four matches for Eusebio de Francesco's side and made him the youngest Turk to score a Champions League goal. No word whether Rod Stewart sent congratulations.
Under and his Bosnian partner-in-crime Edin Dzeko worked in tandem to unlock Shakhtar's defence. His link-up play with the former Man City forward in the first half kept Roma in ascendance. Daniele De Rossi also joined the fun. Under was the one who got over on the home side, however. Cengiz made attacking runs and pressed high while defending down the left flank. He completed two successful dribbles and made three tackles before being substituted in the 71st minute.
Marlos was a favourite to have an impact entering this match. He had scored a brace against Chornomorets in his previous outing. Don't forget his two assists in the match against Man City which put Shakhtar into the knockout stage.
The Brazilian-born Ukrainian international wasn’t on the scoresheet simply because his Selecao mate Allison made an acrobatic save on a shot labelled for the upper 90. The Shakhtar attacking mid created several chances in partnership with Fred, Taison, and Bernard, however. While the two clubs were Ukrainian and Italian respectively, this match was, save for Under, an exclusively Brazilian show.
Marlos set up attacking chances and counters on both flanks. His play won the free kick Fred buried when Kevin Strootman was forced to bring him down. In addition, he completed five key passes and had an 85% pass completion rate.