LVIV (Reuters) – Shakhtar Donetsk lost 1-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao in the Champions League on Tuesday but had already been handed a place in the last 16 thanks to Porto’s earlier win at BATE Borisov.
BATE’s 3-0 defeat meant Shakhtar, who have reached the knockout stage for the third time in the last five seasons, qualified with eight points in Group H behind Porto on 13.
Mikel San Jose struck the winner for Bilbao from a set-piece after 68 minutes when he latched onto Benat’s cross and tapped the ball into the roof of the net against the run of play.
“I guess we were a bit relaxed after knowing the result from Minsk. Athletic were more motivated and put a lot of pressure on us,” said Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu.
Shakhtar had chances to take control of the game but Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz foiled Alex Teixeira after a defensive blunder in the sixth minute and produced a full-length save to parry a low Douglas Costa shot that was heading for the corner.
Shakhtar were frustrated two minutes from time when the ball appeared to be handled on the line by a defender and claims for a penalty were waved away by referee Mark Clattenburg.
“I was surprised when the referee did not award us with a penalty in the end,” added Lucescu.
“Even the supporters saw the handball in the area. I wonder why we need assistant referees behind the goal if they cannot react to the moments like this.”
Shakthar’s Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano, who had already equalled Cristiano Ronaldo’s record nine-goal tally in the Champions League group stage, has missed the chance to break it having been booked and suspended for the final group game.
Bilbao’s win puts them on four points, one ahead of bottom side BATE who the Spaniards need to avoid defeat against at home in their last group game to seal a Europa League spot.
“There are no other options but a win when your team are bottom of the table,” Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde said after celebrating the narrow win over Shakhtar.
“Now that we have some experience in the Champions League I hope to carry on with this winning mood. I hope to clinch three points in the final game.
“I am not inclined to think it was our best game in recent times. Both sides had chances to win the game.
“Each coach may have his own point of view but I believe we deserved this result. We created a lot of pressure on Shakhtar, and you cannot win a game in the Champions League without pressure,” added Valverde.