The starting XI was a strong one, but with Pedro on the bench, it was not the best line-up Guardiola could’ve picked. But there was not much time to mull that over as there was chances from the outset.
Armenian midfielder Henrik (apologies for spelling) Mikhatariyan managed to burst into the penalty area, was dispossessed by Busquets, maybe a foul, but Craig Richards said no dice and Barca played on.
Then on two minutes, there was a breakthrough. Guardiola expected the game to be difficult, but Barca found the net early after Iniesta dribbled past several Shahktar defenders, albeit aided by a lucky bounce, and fired past Pyatov.
Guardiola surely didn’t expect that!
But his warning turned out to be true. Willian had a shot on 5 minutes parried by Valdes, nearly into his own net; Luiz Adriano found himself through, but toe-poked it wide. Lucescu had set up his team to attack, and they did.
Barcelona however, were proving too strong. Messi nearly scored another breath-taking goal after mesmerising several Donetsk defenders, but his attempt was blocked. La Pulga had another chance on 16 minutes, though his free-kick went just wide.
Would that deter the Argentine magician? Not in a million years, and after lax play by one of the Shahktar defenders, he won the ball, before his chip was anticipated by Pyatov.
Villa tried a shot on 26, and you could sense a goal was coming.
So, when Iniesta played a ball over the top, that Alves, who had been poor up until that point, took it past Pyatov and rolled the ball into the empty net.
2-0 and Barca were in control.
It was Barca’s night, and when Messi tracked back to defend a corner on 36 minutes, it just summed up Shahktar’s evening in a nutshell. Promising, but ultimately not good enough.
The second half looked set to bring more goals.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Messi tested Pyatov shortly after the break, and so did Xavi after Razvan Rat ruled himself out of the second leg. However, the Ukrainian net was not left alone for long.
A corner kick right out the training ground worked perfectly as it was played back to Gerard Pique, who made no mistake with his deflected finish. Why didn’t he shack up with Shakira earlier?
Barca were 3-0 up, and cruising through. That was until Rakytskyy scored his first ever Champions League goal after Iniesta got himself booked, ruling him out of the second leg, giving away a free-kick.
But wait! Barcelona were 3 up before, and would continue to be as Keita provided an instant response after a great run by the inspirational Messi.
Messi had another shot on 62, but it was still not his night. Though, when he still created chances, and played brilliantly in a Manita performance by the team, I am not too concerned.
Luiz Adriano hit the post, but thank merely angered the Blaugrana who got a fifth through Xavi who finished a cross from Alves.
All in all a great performance, the tie is all but over, and given the game after the second leg is the first of what is likely to be 4 Clasicos, I am glad. And as Bostjan said on the live game thread:
My choice for man of the match goes to the team. It was too hard to pick a single player who deserved it so hey, let’s create an easy way out!
This was the first time Barca have ever had 2 defenders score in a single Champions League game