Shakhtar warn European rivals to be careful what they wish for
Big-name clubs would'regret' quarter-final tie in Donetsk after Brazilian forwards rout Roma
Thursday 10 March 2011
Shakhtar Donetsk have warned Europe's more established teams to take note of their Brazilian attacking flair and stubborn Eastern European defence before seeing them as the easy draw in the Champions League.
They thrashed Roma 6-2 on aggregate on Tuesday to become only the second Ukrainian team to reach the quarter-finals, after Dynamo Kiev's run to the semis in 1999. "There are some very great names [potentially] in the quarters and I can tell you in advance that any of them would be pleased to be drawn with Shakhtar," said Rinat Akhmetov, the club's owner and Ukraine's richest man. "But I would like them to regret it later."
The Shakhtar team, based in the eastern mining town of Donetsk, is built around a group of young Brazilian midfielders and forwards bankrolled by Akhmetov. Players from the South American country, such as the 22-year-old attacking midfielder Willian, have scored 12 of Shakhtar's 18 goals in their last eight Champions League games. "We have young and talented players. They are very fast and have a great future," said Mircea Lucescu, the Romanian who has been Shakhtar's coach for six years.
Willian, who took three years to adapt to the Donetsk climate, curled in two goals at the freezing Donbass Arena on Tuesday to help Shakhtar romp to a 3-0 victory on the night. Other Brazilian signings include Douglas Costa, 20, who joined for €6m (£5.16m) from Gremio and scored against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico to help give Shakhtar a 3-2 advantage in the first leg. Brazilian playmaker Jadson, 27, who also scored in Rome, has become Shakhtar's top striker, with 16 goals in all European competitions.
Lucescu also relies on east Europeans, especially at the back. Captain Dario Srna has long been chased by Europe's top clubs but the Croatia midfielder has opted to stay with Shakhtar, where, at 28, he is one of the team's oldest players.
The defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy became Ukraine's most expensive player after a €25m switch to Barcelona. When the Ukrainian failed to find a regular spot at the Spanish champions, Akhmetov bought him back for €15m last year to cement the centre of defence.
Shakhtar would love to emulate their 2009 Uefa Cup triumph, beating Werder Bremen in the final, but Akhmetov would not look too far ahead. "We have set a goal to get to the semi-finals," he said. "Others may have big traditions, but we have big ambitions."
The Roma striker Marco Borriello has taken the blame for their loss after missing a penalty he should not even have taken. Borriello's 28th-minute miss at 1-0 was a turning point, given that Roma had started the game well.
With their usual penalty taker and captain, Francesco Totti, kept on the bench for the whole game, David Pizarro was the assigned player, having scored a spot-kick in Friday's 2-1 Serie A win at Lecce but Borriello decided to take the kick himself.
"I assume the responsibility for having missed the penalty, I wanted to take it – it could have changed the game," Borriello said, before having a dig at Roma's new coach, Vincenzo Montella, who replaced Claudio Ranieri following the first leg. "Montella took the duties away from me without talking to me. When Totti wasn't there in the past, I've taken them."
Montella was more annoyed with defender Philippe Mexes for being sent off for two yellow cards after 41 minutes than he was with Borriello. "I can say that we go out with our heads held high. I'm annoyed for other reasons, too much tension, too many pointless bookings. At this level you can't present them with an extra man for 50 minutes," 36-year-old rookie coach Montella said.
"At Lecce, Pizarro was the penalty taker and it was him tonight too. Borriello asked him if he could take it and he let him. Penalties can be missed. Next time I'll take it," joked the interim coach, who was nicknamed the "little aeroplane" for his celebrations while a Roma forward.
Roma, irrespective of the 3-2 first leg loss in Rome, were never going to win the competition and their exit allows Montella to concentrate on trying to propel the side further up Serie A and qualify for next season's tournament. The cash-strapped club are sixth in the Italian league, five points behind fourth-placed Lazio ahead of Sunday's city derby.
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