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Barcelona 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk: Match Review

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Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday night’s early kickoff at Montjuic saw Barcelona play hosts to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League.

With several players unavailable and a mixed run of form, it was never going to be easy for the Catalans. Yet, the Blaugranas were determined to take all three points in their pursuit of the elusive European crown.

Xavi Hernandez was forced to shuffle his cards for tonight’s game considering the team’s injury woes, and the same was reflected in his starting lineup.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen started in goal on the night with Joao Cancelo, Ronald Araujo, Inigo Martinez, and Marcos Alonso forming the defensive unit.

Gavi’s suspension meant the prodigy was unavailable, coercing Xavi to give Fermin Lopez the start alongside Ilkay Gundogan and Oriol Romeu in midfield. The lineup was completed by Joao Felix, Ferran Torres, and Lamine Yamal in the final third.

Right from the opening whistle at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, Barcelona stood in the driver’s seat. The visitors barely got any window to offer any counter-play and had an xG of just 0.03 in the first half.

The Blaugranas stepped on the accelerator from the get-go and did not hesitate to venture forward. Their first big chance, as a result, arrived in just the eighth minute of the game.

Receiving the ball from Romeu, Fermin Lopez found himself in a tricky situation in the Shakhtar box. He used some neat trickery to get past the defenders and set himself up in front of goal to go for glory. While his shot was well-struck Dymtro Riznyk pulled off a great save.

It took close to 15 minutes for the Azulgranas’ next real chance to arrive, but that does not go to downplay their dominance in the intervening period. In the 25th minute, Cancelo pulled out some neat footwork to dummy Matvienko but was denied by the visitors’ goalkeeper.

The 28th minute, finally, brought with it the opening goal for the Catalans. The move stemmed from Ilkay Gundogan’s inch-perfect ball to Fermin Lopez which the youngster controlled with composure. His strike hit the post and fell kindly for Ferran Torres who deposited it in the back of the net with a monstrous volley.

Eight minutes later, Lopez got his crack on goal and succeeded. The La Masia graduate did not have it easy, but smartly worked his way to a wide angle and fired the ball beyond the reach of Riznyk.

Heading into the tunnel at half-time, Xavi Hernandez’s men boasted a two-goal lead and a dominant display that the manager would have been proud of. Yet, the job was far from done.

The hosts picked up from where they left off after the break, instantly jumping onto the offence. Joao Felix hammered a header just four minutes after the restart but was denied by an acrobatic save.

Torres found the back of the net close to the hour mark but had the goal chalked out for offside. The plot, however, twisted just two minutes later when Georgiy Sudakov led Shakhtar’s counterattack and beat Ter Stegen to pull one back.

Fermin’s night only got better as he regularly found himself in scoring positions as the minutes passed. He hit the woodwork once in the 69th minute before having a header disallowed seconds later.

Alejandro Balde came on for Marcos Alonso in the 70th minute. Xavi then called on Marc Guiu to make a mark, replacing Felix, who seemed to have suffered an injury.

The visitors attempted to push for a late equaliser in the final 20 minutes but did not make much inroads into the Catalans’ box. Marc Casado and Andreas Christensen replaced Fermin Lopez and Inigo Martinez respectively.

With this win, Barcelona move to nine points in three UCL games and thus sit atop the standings of Group H. El Clasico is now just around the corner, and the team’s focus understandably shifts to the gargantuan fixture.

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