x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Barcelona complete Shakhtar rout to advance to Champions League semi-finals

Lionel Messi scores the only goal of the second-leg in Ukraine as Barcelona reach the last-four winning 6-1 on aggregate.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, battles for the ball with Shakhtar's Tomas Hubschman during the second-leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, battles for the ball with Shakhtar's Tomas Hubschman during the second-leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Shakhtar Donetsk 0 // Barcelona 1  (Barcelona win 6-1 on aggregate)

DONETSK // Barcelona secured their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League and a probable showdown with arch rivals Real Madrid after completing home and away victories over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Leading 5-1 from last week’s quarter-final first leg at Camp Nou, Barca weathered an early storm at the Donbass Arena before netting what would prove to be the only goal of the night through Lionel Messi just before half-time.

That was the Fifa Ballon d’Or winner’s 48th competitive goal of what has been an incredible season and ensured there would be no slip-up by Pep Guardiola’s side, who will meet Real in the last four unless Tottenham can overhaul a 4-0 deficit.

The result was also the ideal preparation for Barca ahead of Saturday’s el clasico against Real at the Bernabeu, where the Catalan club defend an eight-point lead at the top of the Primera Liga standings.

Shakhtar had history against them coming into the second-leg clash with only three clubs ever having previously managed to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit in Uefa competition, while on Saturday the Ukrainian champions suffered their first home defeat since October 2008 after going down 1-0 to 10-man Obolon Kyiv.

Despite that loss though, Shakhtar still boasted a hugely impressive record at the Donbass Arena, where they had won 32 of 35 matches since moving there in September 2009.

Knowing how critical an early goal could be, Shakhtar started in determined fashion and they created a great opening in the eighth minute when Jadson’s clever pass put Douglas in, but he could not beat Victor Valdes, who did well to block at his near post.

The home side continued to push and Jadson had two efforts which, fortunately for Barca, were straight at Valdes.

Barca stayed calm though, and soon enough they were causing problems for the Shakhtar defence.

Messi and Ibrahim Afellay both saw well-struck efforts saved by Andrei Pyatov, while Adriano had a shot cleared off the line by Yaroslav Rakitskiy.

Messi then spurned a magnificent chance in the 31st minute when faced with just Pyatov to beat.

However, although the Shakhtar goalkeeper came out on top on that occasion, he was left grasping at thin air 12 minutes later when Messi put Barca ahead with his ninth goal in this season’s Champions League.

The Argentina international received a return pass from Dani Alves on the edge of the Shakhtar area before making his way into the box and, after riding a challenge, fired a low shot inside Pyatov’s near post.

That goal wiped out Shakhtar’s away strike from the first leg and all but ended any slim hopes they had of creating a huge upset.

However, the home side refused to give up and they almost drew level on the stroke of half-time with a Jadsen free kick that Valdes did well to tip over.

Shakhtar kept up their hunt for an equaliser after the break, but they also left themselves at risk of being hit on the counter-attack and Barca nearly doubled their lead in the 58th minute through Afellay.

A fine run from Messi ripped open the Shakhtar defence and, after he had laid the ball off to Afellay, it needed a fine diving save from Pyatov to deny the Dutchman.

Valdes produced an even better stop in the 73rd minute to keep out Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who had spun well on the edge of the box but saw his rasping drive brilliantly parried over one-handed by the Barca number one.

Shakhtar’s final chance to salvage a draw fell to substitute Marcelo Moreno, but he volleyed wide from six yards out after flinging himself at Vyacheslav Shevchuk’s superb right-wing cross and Barca were able to celebrate the victory.