Shakhtar Donetsk 2 – 1 Manchester City
By stunningly overcoming Manchester City in the Champions League, Shakhtar Donetsk remarkably became the first team to inflict defeat on Pep Guardiola’s rampant outfit this season.
Although City rested a few of their stars, the unlikely victory was nonetheless a huge achievement for the Ukrainian side, who also guaranteed their passage into the round of 16 courtesy of the result. Moreover, the fact they qualified from their fiercely competitive group, that also featured the brilliant Napoli and the reigning Dutch champions in Feyenoord, with four wins and just two losses, served as a glowing testament to the immense quality in the team. Plus the fantastic work done by manager, Paulo Fonseca.
One man who’s unquestionably been a key driving force behind their success has been Brazilian attacking midfielder, Taison. And the man that has exuded enormous skill, technique and intelligence throughout the group stages was once again integral in the Miners’ landmark win over City.
From his central attacking midfield role, the understanding he shares with his fellow South American attackers, Brazilians Bernard and Marlos and Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra, formed a brilliant platform for him to undertake his work.
His relationship with left-winger, Bernard, proved particularly fruitful, however, as the pair coalesced wonderfully. They’d perform smoothly executed rotations and position themselves within close proximity to one another (either in the 10 spaces of the left half space) to combine intricately. In addition, the way Ferreyra would drop into nearby locations in the left half space, caused further headaches for City’s backline. By all combining in this slightly infield zone of the pitch, this not only gave them great connections to penetrate the City block but it also allowed marauding Brazilian fullback, Ismaily, to surge forward to crucially stretch the opposition with his blistering forward runs down this side.
Importantly, whenever they recognised Ismaily bursting upfield, Bernard or Taison would often cleverly slide across and cover the space vacated by the fullback, in order to provide structural security in case of a turnover.
His spatial awareness to exploit unoccupied space was accompanied beautifully by his supreme technical ability and wicked acceleration. Possessing glue like ball control and a delicate first touch, Taison was a hugely challenging man to dispossess. Indeed, his low centre of gravity and speed then regularly meant he could turn his man and charge at City’s last line, where his unpredictable dribbling and imaginative passing posed additional nuisance.
So effective in 1v1 duels, at finding space and dovetailing with his colleagues, Taison’s dynamism saw him run riot on the Premier League leaders. By the numbers, his four shots, three key passes and four successful dribbles suitably demonstrated his unmistakable contribution.
The current Brazilian international and captian of Shakhtar, who was on the verge of joining Chelsea a few years back but for work permit complications scuppering his move, will certainly be looking forward to stamping his mark on the knockout stages of Europe’s premier competition too.
If he can reproduce his best like he’s done against two of the continent’s best in Napoli and City, there’s absolutely no reason why the gifted game changer can’t propel Shakhtar deep into the this year’s Champions League.
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