In an unexpected turn of events, Shakhtar Donetsk secured a historic 1-0 victory over Barcelona in a Champions League clash held in Hamburg on Tuesday.
This remarkable win, however, took place under unique circumstances, as Shakhtar has been unable to play their home games at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014.
The match in Germany did not deter Shakhtar’s determination, and it was Danylo Sikan who stole the spotlight with a dipping header in the 40th minute, clinching an impressive win over the Spanish giants.
Marino Pusic, the coach of Shakhtar Donetsk, acknowledged the challenges his team faced, including the need for extra time to recover due to the travel.
He emphasized the importance of the victory not only for the club but for Ukrainian football as a whole, given the challenging circumstances in the country.
“Unfortunately, because of the situation in the country, you can call this a home game, but for us, it is a tremendous part — the traveling, and sometimes we need one or two days extra to recover, of course. It is not so easy… It is important also for Ukrainian football to represent the country in Europe like we did tonight.”
Despite the loss, Barcelona still leads Group H, with Porto in second place, having beaten Royal Antwerp 2-0 on head-to-head record.
However, Barcelona missed an opportunity to secure qualification for the last 16 with two games to spare, which left coach Xavi Hernandez disappointed.
Shakhtar Donetsk, with six points, significantly boosted their hopes of reaching the knockout stage while positioning themselves favorably to secure at least a third-place finish ahead of Antwerp, which would grant them entry into the Europa League.
Marino Pusic expressed his optimism, saying,
“If we achieve that (last 16), it would be fantastic. If not, then to stay in Europe would also be a great achievement, amazing achievement even, for this club under those circumstances.”
In contrast to their successful start in the Champions League this season, Barcelona struggled to make an impact during this match. Shakhtar managed to stifle their uninspired visitors, with Barcelona only mustering a single shot on target.