Barça goes into the semis in style (0-1)
FC Barcelona made it into the semi finals of the Champions League without having to suffer for it by winning 1-0 away to Shakhtar. A Messi goal before the break banished any fears of the Ukrainians putting together a comeback.
Barcelona (FCB).- Barça stayed solid and made sure of their Champions League semi final place in convincing fashion. With the safety net of the 5-1 win at the Camp Nou beneath them, they dealt with the situation intelligently. Once the early flurry from an enthusiastic Shakhtar had been nullified, they settled into their trademark possession game and a 43rd minute goal from an outstanding Leo Messi coupled with some extraordinary saves from Victor Valdés meant it was plain sailing through to the final whistle.
All five senses
Memories of the cup tie with Betis on their mind, Barça defended tight as the Ukrainians came flying at them in search of an early goal to refuel their dying European dream. But the game in Donetsk was very different to the one in Seville, to a large extent because Guardiola was risking nothing and sent out his first-choice eleven. But things could have been different had Valdés not produced a point-blank save in front of Douglas Costa in the 8th minute, the first, but most spectacular, of his many interventions. Shakhtar were piling on the pressure, to the extent that we occasionally witnessed the unusual sight of FCB opting for long punts of the ball up to the forwards.
But as the clock ticked by, Barça started getting back to the game they know and love, and tried their first few pops on goal, from long range at first, and then from closer, with Rakitskiy clearing an Adriano effort off the line and goalkeeper Pyatov preventing Messi from scoring with a cheeky chip. Just before the break, Messi got his revenge with a terrific piece of control, followed by tricky run that he finished off by finding the net to make it 1-0. That was the 48th goal of the season for the top scorer in the Champions League.
Time to rest
The magnificent Donbass Arena had less thrills to enjoy in the second half. Shakhtar\u2019s distant ray of hope was gone, and Barça opted not to do any more than they really had to. With some big games around the corner, the Catalans wanted as calm a game as they could get, and with Mascherano playing colossal football at centre back and Valdés as inspired as ever, they had little to worry about. Guardiola even opted to take off Piqué, Xavi and Villa, clearly with other matches in mind.
Moreno almost managed to pull one back for the home side in the 83rd minute with a heroic leap, but he failed to find the target. This was never going to be anything but Barça\u2019s day, and they\u2019re back in the Champions League semi finals for the fourth season in a row.
0-1 Messi (min 43)