Bayern Munich’s Xabi Alonso was sent off on his 100th UEFA Champions League appearance as the German side were held to a scoreless draw by Shakhtar Donetsk in their round-of-16 first-leg clash on Tuesday.
Alonso picked up his second booking after 65 minutes, but Bayern comfortably held on to secure a positive result in a first leg played out in sub-zero temperatures in Lviv.
The Bundesliga champions will be confident they can complete the job in three weeks’ time in Munich, but Pep Guardiola will be relieved that they survived an ill-tempered encounter in Ukraine.
Guardiola preferred to keep his own counsel regarding Alonso’s sending off.
“I obviously followed it from the sidelines and the referee decided what he decided,” Guardiola said. “I don’t want to say anything more about it.”
Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer was more forthcoming than Guardiola, describing the refereeing performance as “strange.”
The former Germany sweeper also agreed with the Spaniard’s suggestion that a scoreless draw away from home is not necessarily positive.
“Nil-nil is always problematic,” Sammer said. “On the face of it, it sounds good, but I’d be of the opinion that it’s a dangerous result.”
Shakhtar Donetsk — who had not played a competitive match since the last group game on Dec. 10 — were forced to host the game more than 1,000km from the club’s Donbass Arena due to ongoing violence in the east of the country, but they successfully stifled the German visitors, who had come into the match brimming with confidence following an 8-0 win over Hamburg SV at the weekend.
Shakhtar’s Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu was delighted that despite their rustiness they had not taken a similar hammering.
“The first plan was not to lose,” Lucescu said. “The second was to keep our chances alive for the second leg. We did that. What I regret is that we didn’t try to play our game when Bayern were down to 10 men.”
Bayern almost got an away goal after only two minutes when Arjen Robben clipped a ball into Bastian Schweinsteiger, who hooked wide from inside the penalty area.
Shakhtar could be forgiven for a slow start since they had played their last competitive game 10 weeks ago in their final group game in the competition and after 11 minutes Robben created another good opportunity when his reverse pass picked out the run of Thomas Mueller inside the area. From a tight angle, Mueller prodded the ball past goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, but did not find the net.
The hosts dug in after that and rarely looked threatened, despite allowing Bayern 70 percent possession in the opening half an hour.
After 24 minutes, Alonso picked up his first booking and Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer almost fumbled the free-kick that followed into Douglas Costa’s path.
Just past the half hour Bayern created another opening.
Shakhtar coughed up possession cheaply in front of their own penalty area, allowing Franck Ribery and Mueller to combine to good effect.
Mueller slid in to connect with Ribery’s neat cut-back, but the Germany international could not steer his strike from the penalty spot on target.
Shakhtar contained the German league leaders until halftime, and a scrappy second half only came to life when Ribery and Costa were involved in a heated altercation after a foul by Darijo Srna.
Just a couple of minutes later Costa was lucky to escape with only a yellow card after his elbow caught the Bayern midfielder flush in the face.
The complete commitment of both sides was illustrated just past the hour mark when Alonso and Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano both called for treatment when they collided near the center circle, but Alonso’s luck ran out when he was shown a second yellow card for hauling down Alex Teixeira.
Six other players were booked in a hard-fought game, with Ribery coming in for particularly rough treatment, but Shakhtar never looked like taking advantage of the extra man.
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