On September 18, Shakhtar, Donetsk, and Manchester City played the first Round 1 game of UEFA Champions League group stages at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv. The final score was 0:3 in favor of the English club.
In the first half, Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock on 24th minute and was joined on the scoresheet by Ilkay Gundogan on 38th minute. In the second half, Shakhtar could not turn the tide. Gabriel Jesus got a pass from Kevin De Bruyne and scored the final goal on 76th minute.
At the post-game conference, Josep Pep Guardiola, Manchester City’s coach, commented on the game of his team’s opponents recognizing Shakhtar as a strong rival. He also considers Andriy Pyatov “as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.”
In spite of winning nine out of 12 matches against Shakhtar, Mr. Guardiola expressed his appreciation to the rival. In particular, he noted Taison’s techniques. “Well, we saw Taison in the field. He is a great dribbler. It’s impressive how he made his way between our lines interacting with Marlos. It wasn’t easy to win previous matches as Shakhtar had Fernandinho, Douglas Costa, Rakitsky, Chyhrynskiy and Srna. Yes, we managed to win, but it is very important to keep the rhythm against this team and as a rule, we managed to do it as Manchester City’s players are highly-trained. In addition, when I look at the playing of the closest opponent before the game, I tune in to his strengths, not weaknesses. Definitely, Shakhtar is a quality mark team,” noted Guardiola.
Notably, Manchester City is a frequent visitor to Kharkiv. Earlier, during the pre-match conference, Josep Guardiola made a joke that he has already bought an apartment in Ukraine as his team comes here to play in the match of the group stage for the third consequences year.
Before the match, Shakhtar officials organized a reception to welcome the guests. In order to underline the warm relations between teams, they presented to the guests vyshyvanky, Ukrainian national embroidered shirts, and other unexpected presents – Ukrainian souvenir passports.
Among Ukrainian club’s representatives were general manager Serhii Palkin and head coach’s assistant Darijo Srna. Chief operating officer Omar Berrad and Txiki Begiristain, an athletic director, attended the event for the English side.
“Due to the fact that our colleagues-friends visited Kharkiv several times and already feel at home here, we decided to give them the attributes of Ukrainian culture: souvenir passports and vyshyvanky,” said Serhii Palkin.
In spite of the loss, Shakhtar still has five group matches so the team still has a good chance to progress to knockout stages.
On October 1, Shakhtar will play Atalanta, an Italian football club from Bergamo, followed by a match against Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia on October 22.
Text: Natalia Ivanova, Richard J. Wilson
Photo: Gleb Garanich, FC Shakhtar, sport.ua