Barcelona endured a disappointing 1-0 defeat at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, missing the opportunity to secure early qualification to the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
Shakhtar’s Danylo Sikan scored a remarkable dipping header in the 40th minute, leading his team to a memorable victory as Barcelona, led by Xavi Hernandez, failed to pose a threat to their Ukrainian opponents.
Despite the loss, Barcelona still maintains their position at the top of Group H, with Porto in second place. Porto has the chance to catch up with Barcelona on nine points if they secure a victory against Royal Antwerp later today.
Barcelona midfielder Oriol Romeu expressed his disappointment, stating, “It’s a tough defeat, we wanted to secure qualification, but it wasn’t meant to be. We need to improve and create fewer opportunities for our opponents. We must find solutions quickly, as this situation is challenging for us.”
Romeu emphasized the need for his team to reflect on their performance, stating, “Every defeat serves as a warning. We need to be self-critical and analyze our mistakes in order to rectify them promptly.”
Having failed to progress from the group stage for the past two seasons, Barcelona saw this match as an opportunity to secure early qualification with two games to spare. However, Shakhtar, forced to play their home games in Hamburg due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, proved to be a formidable opponent from the start.
Barcelona missed significant chances in the previous encounter with Shakhtar in October. However, this time, Marino Pusic’s team effectively shut down their lackluster visitors, who managed only one shot on target.
Xavi, the Barcelona coach, had expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s performance in their narrow 1-0 league win over Real Sociedad on Saturday, despite the favorable outcome. Unfortunately, his words seemed to go unheeded by the players.
Shakhtar created the first scoring opportunity, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen denying Mykola Matviienko at the near post. Ilkay Gundogan and Raphinha also failed to threaten as Barcelona struggled to create any danger. Additionally, veteran striker Robert Lewandowski, on his return to Germany, appeared completely disconnected from the game.
Shakhtar took the lead just before half-time, exploiting Barcelona’s defensive vulnerability as Giorgi Gocholeishvili took advantage of the out-of-position left-back Marcos Alonso. Sikan, with an impressive header, beat Andreas Christensen in the air and placed the ball beyond the reach of Ter Stegen.
Ter Stegen made a save from Gocholeishvili early in the second half as Shakhtar maintained their dominance. In an attempt to revitalize their uninspired performance, Xavi made substitutions, introducing Alejandro Balde, Lamine Yamal, and Pedri. Despite these changes, Barcelona failed to shine, and Shakhtar goalkeeper Dmytro Riznyk had a relatively quiet night.
Shakhtar’s young Brazilian winger, Newerton, scored a spectacular second goal in the final stages of the match. However, it was disallowed due to an offside call. The disallowed goal would have been a remarkable way to cap off a glorious night for Pusic’s team.
Despite having seven minutes of added time, Barcelona could not find a breakthrough. Felix’s appeal for a penalty after being clipped on the edge of the box was unsuccessful.
Shakhtar, the Ukrainian champions, celebrated their victory with great enthusiasm. They now sit just three points behind Barcelona, who will face Porto in their next Champions League match on November 28.