Despite Chelseas great start to the season, there was always an element of doubt involved, when they came face to face with Shakhtar Donestk in the Ukrainian giants homeland. Since the opening of the 'Donbass Arena' in 2009, Shakhtar have had one of the best home records in the Champions League, and to make it an even more daunting place to visit, they haven’t lost at the Donbass Arena in all competitions since November 2011, where they lost to Portuguese club Porto.
Heading into the game, Shakhtars danger man was the Armenian 23-year-old Henrik Mkhitaryan. The attacking midfielder has already scored fourteen league goals and assisted five more goals this season, in twelve games, and has managed to carry his form into European Competition, scoring two goals in the first three Champions League match days.
Chelsea started the game without Eden Hazard, and opted for Ramires to occupy the right flank, presumably as a defensive measure to track back and help Branislav Ivanovic defend against Willian, one of Shakhtars most dangerous attacking players. However, the game plan went against the London club as Frank Lampard limped off with injury only fifteen minutes in, resulting in the Belgian Hazard coming on in his place, and Ramires occupying the position Lampard was playing.
However, by the time this had happened, Chelsea were already a goal down, conceding only three minutes into the game, after Alex Teixeira opened the scoring, putting Chelsea on the back foot from the kick-off. Hitting a shot across Petr Cech, into the far left corner, and making it an extremely tough job for Chelsea to try and get three points, given the home teams record.
Shakhtars domination continued throughout the first half, resulting in fifteen shots come the end of the half, a staggering amount against the holders and a team renowned for their defensive solidity, and after this domination, it’s a surprise that Shakhtar weren’t more than a goal ahead, when the half time whistle went.
It didn’t take long for Shakhtar to double their lead, however, as after seven minutes of the second half Fernandinho had made it two-nil to Shakhtar, after a Luiz Adriano assist, making it almost impossible for Chelsea to turn the game around. Chelsea did manage to pull one goal back, after a Ivanovic surged down the right hand, before playing a neat one-two and providing a low cross for Oscar, who was left with a simple finish, but it proved to only be a consolation, as the game finished 2-1 to Shakhtar, and their impressive record continued.
The Miners are now sitting pretty at the top of the group, taking seven points from three games, however top-scorer Mkhitaryan believed they could have scored more as he told UEFA.com:
"Everyone knows how strong Chelsea are. Fortunately, we got the early goal which is very important in a game against a side like this. After that, it was a lot easier as we had much more space to counterattack. We had more chances to score in the first half but we weren't lucky enough to do that.”
In the end, Chelsea couldn’t deal with the Brazilian play maker Willian, who completed six dribbles and four key passes, and was constantly a thorn in the Chelsea defence, which could have been different if it wasn’t for the injury to Lampard early on, as Ramires would have been able to track back and help cut down his space, but it wasn’t to be. The group could become awkward for Chelsea, if they can’t win the games against Shakhtar and Juventus coming up, but we will wait and see, for now, all we know is the Donbass Arena remains one of the most difficult and daunting stadiums to visit in Europe.