Thursday, April 7, 2011

Barca Stuns Shaktar 5 - 1

Yesterday FC Barcelona virtually ensured a semi-final showdown against Real Madrid in UEFA Champions League competition, with their scintillating 5 - 1 victory over Russian champions Shaktar Donetsk at Camp Nou.  Although the match itself was lopsided, going into this match there were real questions for
Barca.  In the past Shaktar Donetsk has defeated Barca in Champions League play, ensuring that Coach Pep Guardiola would not be looking past this match.  Fortunately the team was ready.

The fireworks began only two minutes past kickoff, when a through pass by Lionel Messi was deflected to the feet of Andres Iniesta, who calmly slotted home the ball for the opening score.  Despite the terrible start, Shaktar gamely fought back, exposing weaknesses in the Barcelona defense caused by the extended absence of Barca defensive maestro Carles Puyol; but fortunately the goalkeeping by Victor Valdes prevented any scoring.  In the 34th minute Danny Alves took a beautiful curving pass from Iniesta ahead of Shaktor keeper Pyatov for the second score, and then in the 53rd minute saw Gerard Pique score on a corner kick, to put the game out of reach for the visitors. 

Shaktar enjoyed a moment of hope in the 60th minute when Yaroslav Rakytskyy took a free kick on his shin that went into the goal; but just 60 seconds later Messi Wan Kenobi dashed through the Shaktar defense drawing defenders, before dishing off to Seydou Keita at the last moment, who calmly punched the ball into the roof of the net for Barca's fourth score.  A minute later the incomprable Lionel Messi had a goal dissallowed by an offsides call, but no matter-- in the 86th minute Alves sent a low cross to an open Xavi Hernandez, who ended the scoring for the evening.

And so Barca now takes a surely-decisive four goal advantage to the Donbass Arena for the second leg of this series.  Given Real Madrid's 4 - 0 drubbing yesterday of English side Tottenham Hotspur, it will be FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid in the Semi-Final leg of this years UEFA Champions League, barring a complete meltdown by either the Spaniards or Catalans in the second leg against Shaktar or Hotspur.  This gives Barca yet another chance to thrash Real Madrid this season and prove--in case anyone is still wondering-- what is the best professional soccer team in the world right now.