Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Champions League: FC Shakhtar Donetsk 2, Celtic FC 0

GORDON STRACHAN last night admitted he may have been guilty of tactical naivete in Donetsk as his Celtic team slid to defeat and the bottom of Group D in their opening Champions League fixture.

Goals in the first eight minutes from Brazilian striker Brandao and Italian forward Cristiano Lucarelli earned Shakhtar Donetsk a 2-0 victory over the Parkhead club who are still waiting for their first away win in the group stage of the tournament after 13 attempts.

While Strachan cited the mistake by captain Stephen McManus which led to Shakhtar's first goal as the turning point of the match, he also suggested his own decision to play with two strikers against the Ukrainian side may have been a contributing factor on a night when Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu claimed his team should have scored six goals.

"I really felt we could win the game, and we were brave but maybe a bit naive to play with two strikers," said Strachan. "But I honestly believed we could come here and win. Losing the first goal the way we did through a basic mistake was crucial. You can't give away goals like that away from home in Europe.

"If it's a wonder goal scored against, you hold your hands up and say 'fair enough', but you don't expect a mistake like that. We came a long way and spent a lot of time preparing for the game, then after just 10 minutes or so found ourselves with a mountain to climb.

"Shakhtar were the better team and deserved to win the game, but we were in shock after the first 10 minutes. One or two of our players then rolled their sleeves up and decided Shakhtar were only going to score again over their dead bodies and after that we did play some decent football.

"We also created chances and if we had scored one, I felt we would have got a second. I'm not going to criticise anyone in my team. I do feel this team can bounce back again. I'm proud of this lot, a lot of them are at a great age. There is a lot of work to be done and experience to be gathered, but we will gather it together and become stronger.

"It was a great learning experience for them tonight. It was a lesson, but we will deal with it. We also lost our first game in the Champions League last season, but still qualified with a game to spare, so we have shown we can do it."

Shakhtar Donetsk coach Lucescu admitted the comfortable manner of his team's victory had surprised him and felt the final scoreline did not do them justice.

"I think the result should have been 6-2 for us," said the veteran Romanian whose team are the early leaders of Group D after AC Milan defeated Benfica 2-1 in the San Siro in the other match last night.

"It was a much easier victory than I thought it would be. I emphasised to my team that we had to put Celtic under pressure early in the game, then our technical players could make a big impression. That is what happened.

"It would not be just for me to single out any of my players, because as a team they were excellent, but Fernandinho did a really good job in midfield and the experience of Cristiano Lucarelli up front was also important.

"In the second half, it was a little bit different. Celtic had some chances and Vennegoor of Hesselink was a threat, but I'm very satisfied with our defenders and Lewandowski who played in a free role in front of them.

"It is a very important victory and three points for us. I don't think 2-0 tells the full story of the game, we had many more opportunities. I said before the game I would take Artur Boruc from the Celtic team and he made some really good saves."

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