Real Madrid extended their perfect start in the Champions League with a 2-1 win against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Bernabeu.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side came into this match top of Group F with two wins from two, having beaten Celtic and RB Leipzig by an aggregate scoreline of 5-0. Shakhtar had already done enough to suggest they could be potentially tricky opponents, however, thrashing RB Leipzig 4-1 and drawing 1-1 with Celtic, this despite their squad being weakened considerably over the summer after FIFA’s ruling that foreign players could suspend their contracts with Ukrainian clubs owing to Russia’s invasion.
Real made a dominant start to the game, Karim Benzema denied by a last-gasp intervention from Shakhtar defender Mykola Matviienko before Federico Valverde fired straight at Anatoliy Trubin in goal. With 13 minutes on the clock they had their opener, Rodrygo finding a pocket of space between the lines and, having briefly lost the ball to Taras Stepanenko only to win it back again, scoring from just outside the box without breaking his stride.
Shakhtar looked shaken, with Trubin sending a clearance straight to Dani Carvajal only to be bailed out by his defenders. He partly redeemed himself by keeping out Benzema, but was helpless to stop Vinicius Junior when he scored Real’s second soon afterwards.
It was a beautiful team goal, starting when Benzema dropped deep to link with Valverde. The Uruguayan midfielder picked out Rodrygo ahead of him, he played a neat one-two with Benzema and then, with Shakhtar defenders converging, the Brazilian threaded through Vinicius who lashed into the far corner.
Just when it looked like Shakhtar might crumble, they found their inner steel. Bohdan Mykhailichenko charged up the left flank and whipped in a cross which fell for Oleksandr Zubkov, who leapt up into the air and thundered an acrobatic volley past Real goalkeeper Andriy Lunin.
Benzema almost scored immediately after the restart only to see his shot deflected narrowly wide, before Mykhaylo Mudryk went close to an equaliser. Only a last-ditch challenge from Ferland Mendy stopped him from rounding Lunin and rolling the ball into an empty net.
Shakhtar had another good chance to level the scores late on, Yukhym Konoplia fluffing his lines after finding himself unmarked at the back post. That set up a nervy last 10 minutes for the hosts, but they held on – with Marco Asensio hitting the post right at the end – to extend their lead at the top of the group.
Shakhtar continue to defy expectations. With such a depleted squad, Shakhtar were widely written off as shoo-ins for fourth place after the group stage draw. While they succumbed to their first defeat of the season here, they once again defied their billing.
Real’s superiority was plain for all to see: they ended the match with 36 shots in total, with 14 on target, to Shakhtar’s 11 and three respectively. Nonetheless, after a shaky start, the visitors frustrated their hosts for long periods and, had Mudryk or Konoplia been a little luckier, they might just have snatched a draw.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Rodrygo (Real Madrid). With a goal and an assist to his name, Rodrygo is the obvious choice. His involvement in the build-up play to Vinicius’ goal is what really sets him apart, however.
His one-two with Benzema was a moment of genius, requiring agility, quick thinking and faultless movement off the ball. It was well worth the Bernabeu’s enraptured applause.
Real Madrid: Lunin 6, Carvajal 6, Militao 7, Alaba 5, Mendy 7, Valverde 7, Tchouameni 6, Kroos 6, Rodrygo 8, Benzema 6, Vinicius 7
Subs: Camavinga 5, Asensio 6
Shakhtar Donetsk: Trubin 6, Konoplia 6, Bondar 6, Matviienko 7, Mykhailichenko 7, Stepanenko 6, Sudakov 5, Bondarenko 6, Shved 5, Mudryk 7, Zubkov 7
Subs: Petriak 6, Sikan 5, Traore N/A, Durasek N/A
2’ GOOD DEFENDING! Benzema almost latches onto a clever ball over the top from Valverde, but Matviienko does well to read the danger and hook it away.
13’ GOAL! Rodrygo gets Real’s opener, turning and running at Shakhtar’s defence before unleashing a shot from just outside the box which sails past Trubin and into the back of the net. The ball had briefly pinballed off Stepanenko, but the Brazilian managed to win it back and score regardless.
28’ GOAL! That is absolutely superb. Benzema drops deep and links up with Valverde, who picks out Rodrygo on the charge. In a show of fantastic one-touch football, Rodrygo and Benzema play a lovely one-two before the former instantly threads through Vinicius who lashes into the far corner.
39’ GOAL! And what a goal it is. Mykhailichenko makes hay on the left and whips a cross into the box. With David Alaba rooted to the spot, Zubkov leaps up into the air and sends an audacious volley past Lunin.
47’ GOOD CHANCE! Valverde threads through Benzema, but his shot is deflected just wide. The ensuing corner comes to nothing.
52’ SHAKHTAR ALMOST SCORE! Mudryk shows impressive pace to get in behind Real’s defence and charge into the box. Just as it looks like he might nab an equaliser, Mendy makes a crucial tackle and Lunin rushes off his line to gather.
78’ HUGE CHANCE FOR AN EQUALISER! Konoplia finds himself unmarked at the far post, but fails to make a clean connection with the goal at his mercy.
90’ ASENSIO HITS THE POST! Benzema gets away down the left and picks out Asensio, who smashes a shot against the far post only for the ball to ricochet away.