Chelsea v Shakhtar Donetsk: Russian billions bring Brazilian brilliance
According to Forbes, the owners of these clubs were worth a combined $28billion (£17.5billion). The $16billion of Shakhtar Donetsk’s Rinat Akhmetov eclipsed even Roman Abramovich’s $12billion. And there were times when Shakhtar monopolised the ball the way Akhmetov hogs coal production and energy generation in Ukraine.
On a night of Brazilian brilliance, though, resilience won the game for Chelsea, along with a graduate of Stanley Technical High School in South Norwood. It was there that the Nigerian-born Victor Moses came to the attention of Crystal Palace’s scouts and began his journey to Stamford Bridge via Wigan Athletic. Moses’ winning goal three minutes into added time preserved the honour of Chelsea’s fringe players and confirmed the team’s esprit de corps on a night of chasing Ukrainian/Brazilian shadows.
The abiding memory, however, is of imported talent from Pele’s homeland: especially Willian, who escaped Abramovich’s clutches to become a star in the eastern mining city of Donetsk.
In 10 years, if oligarchs maintain their interest, European football could be a constellation of mega-clubs chasing domination. It will not matter which country they base themselves in. With patronage, the top team in Ukraine will be able to match the leading side in England, Italy or Spain. This was the growing sense as two sets of Brazilians shone in west London.
There were eight players from the home of joga bonito in Shakhtar’s Champions League squad and three in Chelsea’s starting XI. For the visitors Willian, the centre-forward Luiz Adriano and Fernandinho sparkled, while Oscar’s long-range finish shortly before half-time was a masterpiece of coolness and control.