Shakhtar Donetsk stun Real Madrid

MADRID (AP) — The celebrations by Shakhtar Donetsk players echoed loudly around the empty Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium.

Some yelled, others raised their arms and a few hugged each other after the final whistle was blown in Madrid.

It wasn’t just another victory for the Ukrainian side.

A Shakhtar team depleted by coronavirus cases handed Real Madrid a shocking 3-2 home loss in Group B of the Champions League yesterday.

Playing with only a few regular starters, Shakhtar took advantage of counterattacks to open up a 3-0 first-half lead, and then held on after Madrid pulled closer with two goals shortly after the break.

“It’s a great result for us,” Shakhtar coach Luis Castro said. “We knew what difficulties we could expect and planned our strategy accordingly. The players have done everything absolutely fantastically. We were a united team from the first until the last minute.”

Madrid thought it had equalised in injury time through Federico Valverde, but the goal was disallowed for offside after video review.

“It was a bad match, a tough night,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “I’m bothered by what happened and I’m responsible for it. The team didn’t perform like I wanted and that’s my fault.”

The Ukrainian side opened the scoring through Tetê in the 29th minute and added to the lead with an own-goal by Madrid defender Raphael Varane in the 33rd. Manor Solomon then added the third in the 42nd.

Madrid fought back with a long-range shot by Luka Modric in the 54th and a goal by Vinícius Júnior in the 59th, seconds after he came on as a substitute.

“When the score was 3-2 we had to defend even more and thought, ‘Oh, let this game end as soon as possible,’” Castro said. “Overall, we showed our quality in terms of tactics and skill.”

Shakhtar arrived in Spain without several key players who were not fully fit after going into isolation because of positive COVID-19 tests. Seven regular starters and a couple of first-choice substitutes were absent, and Castro had to call up seven players from the ‘B’ team.

Zidane was without some players because of injury, including captain Sergio Ramos and right back Dani Carvajal, and he made several changes to the starting line-up ahead of the Spanish league clásico against Barcelona. Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema were among those who started on the bench.

“We didn’t get off to a good start. I think we lacked confidence,” Madrid midfielder Luka Modric said.

“We improved in the second half but it wasn’t enough. We have to move on, the next match is coming up soon and we can’t lose time lamenting.”

It was the second consecutive home loss for Madrid, which was beaten 1-0 by promoted Cádiz in the Spanish league.

The team was ineffective from the start on Wednesday, unable to get near the Shakhtar goal. The visitors, meanwhile, threatened often and squandered several other scoring chances. Marlos had a goal disallowed for offside in the 80th.

The game was played at the 6,000-capacity Alfredo Di Stéfano at Madrid’s training centre because the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium remains under renovation while fans are not allowed into matches because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A 13-time Champions League winner, Madrid was eliminated in the round of 16 in the last two seasons.