In the end qualification to the next round was not secured just yet. Will this result hamper our progress? I don’t think it will. Granted the performance was a bit dire but there’s absolutely nothing to fret. I’ll put my house down on us advancing to the next stage.
Shakhtar Donetsk has been undefeated at their spanking new stadium, Donbass Arena for almost 2 years now. As I’ve told you in the match preview yesterday, their defeat at the Grove is by no means any measure of their real capability. Yesterday’s game was closer to what they can really do.
That of course is not helped by the fact that we fielded an inexperienced defensive midfielder in an away fixture in front of one of the more boisterous crowds in Europe in such unforgiving weather. Without Alex Song and Denilson, it was a burden too heavy for Craig Eastmond. Starting his first Champions League tie, he was bags of nerves and was all over the place. It did not help that he had 2 more attacking minded players beside him in midfield in Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky.
The latter duo did not give enough protection to Eastmond who always look alone in midfield surrounded by a couple of Shakhtar players. It is fair to say that other than a couple of short spells, the Ukrainian side were in total control in the middle of the park. Eastmond did contribute a goal but at the wrong end of the pitch. He afforded Dimitro Chygrynskiy way too much room and the former Barcelona man’s header glanced off Eastmond’s shoulder and straight past Lukasz Fabianski. On the bright side, that was not the opening goal.
The honour of the opening goal of the night fell to Theo Walcott. Restored to the starting line-up, he showed just why no one wants to get into speed fight with him. As we cleared a Shakhtar corner, the ball fell kindly for Wilshere who looked up and saw only one man for him to play the pass to. Without taking any extra touch, he lofted the ball over the last man of Shakhtar’s defence. There was only going to be one winner in that race.
Walcott easily go to the end of the pass and took a shot so early that Andriy Pyatov had no time to react. By the time the keeper hit the floor, the ball was already in the back of the net. This was a very good goal and shows the kind of composure in front of goal that Walcott has developed over the years.
No one could’ve scripted it any better as Eduardo turned out to be the one to score the match winning goal for Shakhtar. Gael Clichy was hemmed-in on the left side and instead of just clearing the ball to touch, he tried to nick a throw-in off Darijo Srna. That move failed stupendously and sent the opposition captain scurrying towards Fabinski’s goal. A good cut-back for Eduardo who then plants the ball into the net, in a style and position similar to the one he scored at the Grove. Still no celebration from him, what a gentleman.
Tried as we may in the second half, it was not the best of nights for Arsenal. Wilshere probably had the best chance when he found space inside of Shakhtar’s penalty box but put too much power into his shot as it ricocheted off the bar. Emmanuel Eboue played Maicon for the night and was made to look foolish by Willian. Nicklas Bendtner was disappointing and had too much wayward first touches to get into the game. Fabianski remained another bright spark for Arsenal as he produced several good saves to keep the score to the minimum.
A defeat is never good for the system and it would have been nice to kept our winning run going as well as the clean sheet. Be that as it may, qualification to the next round is still very much in our own hands. Time to rub this as a one-off and move on with the season. Hopefully with many players expecting to return for the weekend, we can look forward to another win over Newcastle, albeit at home this time.