From Champions League rejects to Europa League semi-finalists: Shakhtar Donetsk’s European journey
After being indefinitely suspended due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Europe’s largest competitions – the Champions League and Europa League – are back underway – much to the delight of football fans around the globe.
Whilst the Champions League is still at the quarter-final stage, the Europa League is already gearing up for the semi-finals.
Inter Milan, who are the favourites to lift the cup – according to the online betting – Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester United and Sevilla all set to battle out for a spot in the final.
Shakhtar Donetsk in Europa League semi-finals might be a shock to some
For many football fans, Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League semi-final will come as a surprise. After all, it’s fair to say that they aren’t one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
But, with that in mind, let’s take a look at their European journey thus far. Read on to find out more!
Champions League: Group Stage
Shakhtar kicked off their Champions League group stage with a 3-0 defeat at home against Manchester City.
However, they went on to beat Atalanta 2-1 at the iconic San Siro in Milan in their next outing. This was before three successive draws – two of which were against Dinamo Zagreb, the other at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City.
Poised second in the group, with just Atalanta left to play, the Ukrainians needed just a point at home against the Italians to progress to the knockout stages of the tournament. However, Atalanta ran them ragged. A 3-0 defeat saw them drop down to third, and, therefore, relegated to the Europa League.
Europa League: Round of 32
Shakhtar were drawn against Portuguese giants Benfica, who were also sent packing in the Champions League group stage. Not many people would have fancied the Ukrainians chances either.
However, Alan Patrick and Vicktor Kovalenko scored in the first-leg to secure at 2-1 victory at home.
Then Shakhtar came from two goals down, thanks to Alan Patrick and Taras Stepanenko, to draw 3-3 in a thrilling encounter at the Estádio da Luz – winning 5-4 on aggregate.
Europa League: Round of 16
Shakhtar were handed an equally difficult Round of 16 encounter, as they were drawn against Bundesliga side Wolfsburg. Although, in typical underdog fashion, goals from Junior Moraes and Marcos Antonio helped the Ukrainians stun the German outfit, with a 2-1 win away from home in the first-leg.
Then, three goals, two of which came from Moraes, in the dying minutes of the reverse fixture, spurred them onto a 3-0 win in Donetsk. Giving them a rather comfortable 5-1 aggregate score line.
Europa League: Quarter-finals
With the tournament now heading into the latter stages, and strong contenders remaining, including the likes of Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen, and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Shakhtar would have been more than happy to be drawn against Basel.
And, with games now being played in the new ‘mini-tournament’ format in Germany, the Ukrainians ran riot against the Swiss Super League side.
Brazilians Moraes and Taison fired Shakhtar into a two-goal lead after just 22 minutes, before fellow countrymen Patrick and Dodo doubled their lead in the last 15 minutes.
Former Sporting Lisbon and Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel grabbed a consolation goal for Basil in the 92nd minute. But it was still a comfortable 4-1 win for the Ukrainians.
Europa League: Semi-finals
Shakhtar will face tournament favourites Inter Milan at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Düsseldorf on Monday. This will arguably be the Ukrainians toughest task to date.