In a tight and tense night of football, Inter Milan were held by Shakhtar Donetsk in Kyiv.
The result leaves Inter on just two points after two games whilst Shakhtar top of the group with four points from two difficult games. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Anatolii Trubin
Anatoliy Pyatov has been Shakhtar and Ukraine’s starting goalkeeper for over a decade despite the fact that, for that entire time, he’s been an obvious liability you can always rely on for a mistake in a big game. But the thing is Shakhtar and Ukraine never had any viable alternatives.
Heorhii Buschan is Dynamo’s no. 1 and he most recently kept a clean sheet against Spain. For Shakhtar, Anatolii Trubin is just 19-years-old but is already showing that he should start ahead of Pyatov and could even rival Buschan to be the nation’s no. 1.
Trubin’s performance on matchday one against Real Madrid showed serious ability from him even as Los Blancos put two goals past him. The goalkeeper was a colossal part of Shakhtar’s win. And against Inter today he went one better, keeping a clean sheet through a series of impressive saves, most notably an incredible dive to tip a Romelu Lukaku thunderbolt onto the bar.
Loser: Lautaro Martinez
For pretty much the entire back half of last season, Lautaro Martinez was being linked with Barcelona. Marked down as the heir apparent to Luis Suárez, it was easy to see him fitting that role perfectly with his tenacious style of play and relentless pressing. But in the end, Barcelona’s impaired financial health prevented the move from happening.
Forced to stay in Inter (where some fans allege he had already checked out mentally last season) has left Lautaro in a strange position. And he doesn’t look comfortable. With Inter playing more and more to supply Romelu Lukaku with chances, the Argentine often looks a spare part. Today against Shakhtar he was barely involved and it’s telling that his most notable action was to miss an absolute sitter from just five yards out with an open goal gaping before him.
Winner: Alessandro Bastoni
It’s hard to find positives for Inter on a night like this but the performance of 22-year-old Alessandro Bastoni is definitely one of them. Brazilian Tete absolutely ripped Real Madrid to bits on the break, but Bastoni had him in his back pocket for much of the game.
Bastoni is a big defender, with enough pace and strength to handle himself physically. He’s also got good instincts, identifying danger and dealing with it quickly. With the rest of the Inter defence being either unwanted or, shall we say, experienced… having such a promising young defender (who won possession a team-high 8 times tonight) on the books is a huge boon to Antonio Conte.
Brazil have never been found wanting for great wing-backs but despite having none of the hype and fanfare, Dodo may well be next in the pipeline for the Selecao and one of the next great Shakhtar exports. The Brazilian plays the game with confidence and aggression which makes him formidable in defence as well as attack.
Dodo ended tonight with a team-high 76 touches, made and completed a team-high 52/56 passes, won 3/3 take-ons, made 2 interceptions and regained possession a game-high 10 times. He also went all Jack Grealish at the end of the game, winning a game-high 6 fouls to relieve pressure on the Shakhtar defence.
He’s not a supernova of creativity like some other Brazilian full-backs, but he’s a rugged defender and a quality dribbler. He could be the future.
Winner: Luis Castro
With half a team (or a fully team, really) out injured, Shakhtar went to Madrid with a team full of kids and back-ups and won. A phenomenal achievement, but no one would have been surprised if Luis Castro brought all the starters back for this game against Inter.
But Luis Castro stuck by his players, fielding the same XI that won in Madrid. He gave them another chance and they didn’t let him down, matching Inter all the way and coming close to picking up a goal against a solid Inter defence.
The Portuguese coach was bold in his team-selection and was rewarded with an incredible result. Shakhtar now sit atop the group and unless Gladbach beat Real Madrid, they will stay there headed into matchday three. How wild is that??
Loser: Antonio Conte
Two games played, two draws recorded. Inter were hoping to take their game to the next level this season after two straight years of disappointment in the Champions League group stages. They had two winnable ties in the lead-up to their double header against Real Madrid, but they’ve not won either of them.
They needed a last second equaliser from Romelu Lukaku to avoid defeat on opening day against Gladbach and as bad as that was, they then came to Ukraine to face Shakhtar and couldn’t even get on the scoresheet. They never even really looked like they were breaking their opponents down either. Conte’s changes also couldn’t up the tempo, this was a gimmie win and he fluffed his lines big time.
Antonio Conte may find that his system works better against Real Madrid, but he’s going to need his players to produce more than they have here against Shakhtar because Los Blancos will punish such slack play and that will lead to a third straight year of exiting the Champions League at the group stages.