Match Recap: Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain endured some nervy moments on match day two of the Champions League as they traveled to the Arena Lviv to face Shakhtar Donetsk. The reigning French champions were fortunate to score three and record a clean sheet as the competition has already seen a number of Europe’s elite clubs surrender points to underdog opposition.

The first half largely lived up to the expectations of being the season’s first true ‘test’. While the hosts pressed and countered well, O Monstro kept things orderly at the back and Serge Aurier ran the show down the right flank, enjoying a goal and an assist on his Champions League debut. While his influence faded somewhat in the second half, the Ivorian’s mighty header from a Maxwell cross was the icing on top of a shining performance. He earned an accidental assist in the box as he flicked Angel Di Maria’s corner on for David Luiz to bundle into the net, but he really should have earned one with this magnificent cross to Ibrahimovic, who somehow put it wide.

It’s fair to give Aurier his share of the credit for the result but the back four enjoyed an excellent game regardless of how many shots on goal Shakhtar recorded. They repeatedly attacked Laurent Blanc’s high line with wide play and pace, and both David Luiz and Thiago Silva coped with the pressure extremely well (even defending this moment of slapstick). And while the goal posts did bail him out a couple of times, I would call this Kevin Trapp’s best game for Paris. No doubt there was some element of luck in preserving this clean sheet, but with only three shots on target to PSG’s four, it’s not as if Donetsk have been robbed of a result. At best, they could have had a goal back.

While you could argue that both Luiz’s accidental goal and Darijo Srna’s late own goal (taken away from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Pauleta’s record stands another day) had good fortune about them, Les Parisiens should have had more on the night. Di Maria didn’t have his best time in Parisian colors, if only for his lack of end product, missing two open opportunities including Luiz’s wonderful long ball in. His passes were also a bit off the mark, although his movement was excellent as always. Meanwhile, Blaise Matuidi was nowhere to be found in the attack for PSG. He didn’t charge forward as much and was largely anonymous. You could perhaps point to Thiago Motta, who was at times spotty dealing with the heavy pressure, as reasoning for this, but only Marco Verratti really brought his top midfield game.

So, the familiar problems of a middling midfield and a disjointed attack. Nothing new for PSG supporters. Edinson Cavani’s 22 touches were less than any other starter on either team (including goalkeepers) but so long as he can back that up with goals, his place in the team is secure. Ibrahimovic, in stark contrast, finds the ball wherever he can. With 72 touches, only behind Verratti and Motta, his midfield role is clear, but when going forward he finds himself frequently offside and can still be accused of holding the ball far too long. Optimists will still hope that he can gel with the constant running in behind of Di Maria and Cavani, but last night’s match was far from the big Swede’s finest.

With Javier Pastore the architect behind the third goal after just ten minutes on the pitch, supporters may find themselves clamoring for someone new in Blanc’s midfield diamond. I would even count myself in that camp. Lucas Moura deserved to be dropped after recent anonymous performances but even he proved key in the buildup to the third. It’s a difficult subject to talk about, given the lack of precedent to drop Ibrahimovic, but if he doesn’t find his rhythm soon he may be doing the team more harm than good. Besides, I would make a case for El Flaco to be just as much of a fan favorite.

Regardless, Paris Saint-Germain find themselves with maximum points from both Champions League fixtures so far and stand poised to take on Real Madrid for control of the group. First, though, the Classique on Sunday. We’ll see you then.

Tags Champions League David Luiz Laurent Blanc Lucas Moura Marco Verratti Maxwell Serge Aurier Shakhtar Donetsk Thiago Motta Thiago Silva Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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