End to end action
Jan Novota did superbly well to keep out an effort from Donetsk with his feet, but shortly afterwards he was unfortunately powerless to prevent the Ukrainians equalising: Christopher Dibon was straining to clear a cross with his head, but succeeded only in inadvertently flicking the ball onto the unmarked Gladkiy, who swept the ball into the net - 2:2 (27.). The frenetic end to end pace of the game was maintained by both sides in the remainder of the half as a true spectacle unfolded. Rapid nearly grabbed a third through efforts from Auer and Mario Pavelic, but the score remained two a piece going into half time.
Agonising at the death
With the restart the pattern of the game changed entirely. Having been apparently shocked by the enterprising Green & White football in the first half, a nervous Shakthar began dropping deeper, looking to deny Rapid room and preserve their slender advantage. The Hütteldorfers looked threatening when they managed to launch quick counters after Donetsk did venture forward, but concrete chances proved to be largely illusive. Rapid’s best efforts appeared to be coming to nothing, and the outlook got bleaker not long before full time when Mario Sonnleitner was harshly sent off after picking up a second yellow card for obstruction. But just as it looked like Rapid’s chance had gone, they nearly pulled a place in the Champions’ League group phase out of the fire: in the 91st minute substitute Philipp Prosenik crossed into the box, where he found an unmarked Robert Beric on the edge of the six yard box, but the Slovene striker, always so reliable from these positions, put his header inches wide of the goal (90.).
Despite that miss another golden opportunity again fell Rapid's way; this time Prosenik was on the end of the chance: Shakhtar goalie Pyatov failed to deal with a free kick from Thanos Petsos, pushing the ball back into the danger area after making a low save, where Prosenik turned the goal goal-wards, but with the goal gaping his effort smashed into the post and away to safety. Incredibly, Shakthar had survived ten-man Rapid’s onslaught through two huge slices of luck and were grateful to hear the final whistle.
Despite going out the team had delivered a performance all in the Green & White family can be proud of. Our European journey will now continue in the Europa League until the end of the year at the earliest.
Trainer Zoran Barisic: "I thought the Beric header was in, I thought the same about Prosinek’s shot, but I’m not going to criticise them at all. Quite the opposite, we can be so proud of our troop, they showed that they are good enough to go toe to toe with a side like Donetsk. In the first leg they hit the post and it went in, in the second we hit the post and it stayed out. Little things make big differences and I’m not convinced luck was on our side. Of course we are disappointed not to be in the Champions League, but my overriding feeling is one of pride in the team. You have to give them a huge compliment. We’re now looking forward to the Europa League and want to still be in European competition come the New Year".
UEFA Champions League, Play Off
Shakthar Donetsk - SK Rapid 2:2 (2:2)
Arena Lviv, Lviv, 28.417 Attendance, Ref Marciniak (POL)
Goals: 1:0 Marlos (10.), 1:1 Schaub (14.), 1:2 S. Hofmann (22.), 2:2 Gladkiy (27.);
Shakhtar: Pjatow - Srna, Kriwtsow, Rakizkij, Azevedo - Fred, Stepanenko, Marlos, Teixeira, Taison (87. Bernard) - Gladkij (83. Eduardo);
SK Rapid: Novota - Pavelic, Sonnleitner, Dibon, Auer - Petsos, Grahovac - Schaub (85. Prosenik) , S. Hofmann (63. Schobesberger), F. Kainz (70. Schwab) - Beric;
Yellow Cards: Dibon; Fred, Marlos, Srna, Gladkiy
Red Card (second yellow): Sonnleitner (88.);