Barcelona 5-1 Shakhtar Donetsk – Catalans close in on semi-finals

There may still be two games to be played against Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham Hotspur respectively but nobody would bet against an El Clasico semi-final as Barcelona spanked their Ukrainian opponents by the same four-goal margin as their rivals Real Madrid. Pep Guardiola’s team put five past Shakhtar courtesy of Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Xavi Hernandez. Yaroslav Rakitskiy managed to get a consolation goal for Mircea Lucescu’s side but any hopes of progressing died here tonight in Spain. The Catalan giants have been imperious for several seasons and it would be one of the biggest shocks in footballing history if they were to not set up a semi-final clash against Madrid.

Shakhtar had bad news even before the start of the game with the news that former Barcelona man Dmytro Chygrynskiy was not fit to play against his old club and within two minutes of kick-off Iniesta gave Barcelona the lead after a fortunate deflection off Shakhtar defender Razvan Rat. Both Luiz Adriano and Willian fired wide in the first ten minutes after creating excellent chances for themselves as Victor Valdes looked rather shaky.

Both sides continued to create opportunities with the attackers well on top but it was a defender who next made his mark as Iniesta turned provider to spot the run of Dani Alves and loft in a beautiful free-kick which completely beat the Shakhtar offside trap. Alves took the ball round the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the empty net. However the score line at half-time flattered the Spanish champions as the Ukrainian forwards had a number of openings.

Shakhtar came out in the second half much as they ended the first half, attacking Barcelona and exposing any weaknesses that they could find but, just as in the first half, Barcelona were the more clinical of the teams. Central defender Pique added a third five minutes into the second half as the ball came to him from a corner. A deflection off Rakitskiy put the ball past Andriy Pyatov and Barcelona totally in control.

Rakitskiy pegged the score back to 3-1 with half an hour to go but any hope was short lived as Keita restored the three-goal margin. Lionel Messi beat his man before rolling the ball to the African midfielder who knocked the ball past the helpless Pyatov from 20 yards out.

The final nail in the coffin came through the metronomic Xavi who was set up by Alves in the dying minutes of the game. For all that the score line was incredibly one-sided, Shakhtar were far more dangerous opponents than previous opposition Arsenal and there is no doubt that an away trip to Ukraine is going to be a tough test for Guardiola’s side. However with a four-goal buffer, some key players may be rested as the hard work has already been done and the Catalan giants can look forward to an all-Spanish semi-final should Madrid see out the job against Spurs.

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