Real Madrid extended their perfect start to the UEFA Champions League group stage with a 2-1 victory which belied their superiority at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night.
Shakhtar coach Igor Jovicevic – a former Real Madrid B team player – promised his team would “enjoy the game tomorrow”. Apart from Oleksandr Zubkov’s successful first-half scissor kick, the traveling visitors had very little success to feast their eyes on during a dominant – but wasteful – performance from Los Blancos.
The Ukrainian champions made a brave attempt to lure Madrid in, insisting on playing short and intricate passes in their own defensive third. Failing to weave their way through the forest of white shirts, most of the game was played within earshot of Anatolii Trubin’s goal.
Shakhtar had completed just six passes outside their own half in the 13th minute when Rodrygo curled a low shot over Trubin’s weak wrist. The Brazilian was lucky to have the ball kindly deflected off Taras Stepanenko back into his path on the edge of the box, but Madrid’s lead was well deserved.
Trubin kept his side in the match as Madrid treated the visitors’ goal like a shooting range, even as the home side were constantly bombarded by Shakhtar’s passing.
Vinicius Junior doubled Real’s lead inside the opening half-hour, emphatically finishing off a devastating quick-fire team move that saw Karim Benzema and Rodrygo combine devilishly earlier.
As Shakhtar tentatively began to creep out of their half, it gave Madrid more space to run into. On numerous occasions either side of the break, Ancelotti’s side had their visitors bewitched and bewildered by a flurry of slick interplay – although their finishing efforts often lacked the same precision.
At the end of the half, however, Zubkov acrobatically volleyed Shakhtar back into the game, completely against the run of play. Bogdan Mykhaylychenko had plenty of space on the left for an arc in a delivery that picked out Zubkov, who was enjoying similar isolation in the Madrid box.
Benzema was hardly alone in hitting Trubin’s goal – Los Blancos forced so-called Ukrainian Gianluigi Donnarumma into double figures – but Madrid’s lead remained misleadingly slim.
Shakhtar’s highly-rated Mykhaylo Mudryk was thwarted for much of the game but missed a rare opportunity to open his legs in the second half, lingering long enough for Ferland Mendy to latch the ball onto his glittering fingers.
By the end of a one-sided 90 minutes, the reigning European champions had unleashed an avalanche of 35 shots, the last of which deflected off the post – much to the chagrin of Marco Asensio.
Still, Madrid moved five points clear at the top of Group F, although Shakhtar remain second to RB Leipzig at the halfway point of the campaign, with winless Celtic completing the quartet.
Real Madrid player ratings vs Shakhtar Donetsk – Champions League
1. Real Madrid (4-3-3)
GK: Andriy Lunin – 5/10 – Given precious little to do and hardly at fault when up against Zubkov’s body contortion.
RB: Dani Carvajal – 4/10 – Hung back when Madrid went forward but afforded Mykhaylychenko far too much space in his own half.
CB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Exploited his explosive pace and precise timing to emphatically snuff out multiple Shakhtar attacks while they were still in their infancy.
CB: David Alaba – 4/10 – Left Zubkov criminally unmarked despite being the only bright orange shirt in Madrid’s penalty area.
LB: Ferland Mendy – 7/10 – Made a potentially goal-saving challenge on Mudryk after a burst of speed to keep up with the jet-heeled winger.
CM: Fede Valverde – 6/10 – Glided across the pitch, breaking into his loping stride at any hint of open space ahead of him. Faded in the second half.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 7/10 – Subtly sweeping in front of Madrid’s backline.
CM: Toni Kroos – 7/10 – Invariably involved the first phase of Madrid’s buildup, playing the first rather than the final pass – though both are crucial.
RW: Rodrygo – 8/10 – Tiptoed infield, leaving Valverde to provide the width while he linked with Benzema and Vinicius with lashings of glitz and guile.
ST: Karim Benzema – 8/10 – Every pass he seemed to play was devilishly spun around the corner, tantalisingly out of his opponent’s reach but perfectly into the path of another white shirt.
LW: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – Took every opportunity he had in possession to take on however many orange shirts were in his way.
SUB: Eduardo Camavinga (75′ for Tchouameni) – 5/10
SUB: Marco Asensio (80′ for Rodrygo) – N/A
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti – 7/10 – Furious at his side’s cheap concession before the break, the only nagging negative for the Italian was the reluctance of his wingers to track back.