Shakhtar Donetsk holds Athletic Bilbao to 0-0 draw
BILBAO, Spain (AP) — Shakhtar Donetsk spoiled Athletic Bilbao’s return to the Champions League by holding the hosts to a 0-0 draw in their Group H clash on Wednesday.
Shakhtar surged forward from the first whistle instead of looking to catch Athletic on the counterattack.
Bilbao had secured its first Champions League berth since the 1998-99 season thanks to a 4-2 aggregate playoff win over Napoli.
The hosts almost opened the scoring in the 28th minute but Ibai Gomez’s free kick went inches wide of the right post.
Undeterred, Shakhtar continued attacking Bilbao ’keeper Gorka Iraizoz’s goal with an athletic, muscular style that gave the visitors a greater share of the possession but they were unable to break the deadlock with the match finishing all square.
“We knew they were like speeding bullets who can cause you a lot of harm with a counterattack,” said Bilbao midfielder Mikel Rico. “We reached a moment when we were exhausted and they continued to be dangerous. We all wanted to win but Shakhtar is a huge team and we played well to earn a draw.”
Shakhtar defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy risked conceding a penalty when he used his body to block Aritz Aduriz as he sprinted forward onto a pass into penalty area in the 43rd.
The visitors responded two minutes later when Douglas Costa made a defense-splitting pass across Iraizoz’s goalmouth that was narrowly missed by two Shakhtar players who had narrowly mistimed their runs into the penalty area.
Shakhtar leads Ukraine’s league — that it has won the last five seasons — after a perfect start despite not being able to play in its state-of-the-art 50,000-seater Donbass Arena stadium.
Instead, its fans have to head 695 kilometers (432 miles) west to Kiev for domestic matches and 1,228 kilometers (763 miles) west to Lviv for European matches because Donetsk has often been rocked by shelling during Ukraine’s ongoing political unrest.
“We controlled the game in the first half and most of the second,” said Shakhtar midfielder Taras Stepanenko. “We got a point and didn’t concede. We were able to shut them out.”
Shakhtar had a goal disallowed in the 68th minute when the referee judged defender Olexandre Kucher in an offside position.
In the other Group H match Porto beat BATE Borisov 6-0.