Real Madrid suffered their second straight defeat of the young season with a stunning 2-3 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in their opening match of Group B of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in Madrid.
The first 45 minutes served up by Los Blancos were their poorest in recent memory, allowing Shakhtar to assume a three-goal advantage at the break. Goals from Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior by the hour mark hinted of a classic Real Madrid comeback, but the visitors’ defence held firm the rest of the way to nail down the stunning result.
There was a big surprise in the starting XI of manager Zinedine Zidane, as star striker Karim Benzema was relegated to the bench in favour of Luka Jovic. Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio joined Jovic in attack, while at the back, Eder Militao filled in for the injured Sergio Ramos.
The match quickly took on the unsurprising shape of Real Madrid on the ball and Shakhtar waiting to strike on the counter. That approach almost paid off for the visitors with an opening goal via the break, but Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois came up with a massive stop on Marlos.
Whatever hangover Real Madrid suffered from the weekend loss to Cadiz had carried into Wednesday’s affair, and Shakhtar made Zidane’s men pay for their apathetic form. Viktor Kornienko did extremely well to cut through a pair of defenders before fighting off two other and playing a pass to Tete, who fired in past Courtois for a 0-1 lead.
Before Real Madrid could even react, they were staring at a 0-2 deficit as a Raphael Varane own goal dug an even deeper hole. Tete rocketed a shot toward goal that was blocked by Courtois, but while trying to clear in front of a Shakhtar player, Varane instead poked the ball into his own net.
If the two-goal advantage for the Ukrainians was surprising, things turned downright shocking when it became 0-3 minutes before half-time. Tete was in the middle of things again and his slick back-heel slid right into the path of the charging Manor Solomon, who hammered in the third of the night for the visitors.
Zidane turned to his bench in desperate need of a spark, as Rodrygo was ushered off for Benzema. There was much more urgency to Real Madrid’s play to start the second half and a fantastic strike from Modric brought the hosts to within 1-3 with plenty of time to spare.
The French boss made his second change shortly before the hour mark with Vinicius on to replace Jovic and the Brazilian hit the ground running by intercepting the ball and finishing with aplomb to suddenly make it a 2-3 affair.
Real Madrid could smell blood and the equaliser felt like just a question of time, but Shakhtar were still getting forward and Tete should have had his second of the day when played in, but Courtois once again came to Real Madrid’s rescue with a top save.
More fresh legs came on for Real Madrid in the form of Toni Kroos, who replaced Modric. Still looking for a goal, Zidane committed more numbers forward, leaving Shakhtar with ample opportunity to counter-attack, but they repeatedly failed to take advantage.
As the minutes ticked away, it became kitchen sink time for Real Madrid and they had a shout for a penalty, but replays showed the referee was correct to not blow the whistle. There was even greater controversy in stoppage time when Real Madrid thought they had equalised on a deflected shot from Fede Valverde, but VAR ruled that Vinicius was in an offside position, effectively ending hope of a point.
2.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Mendy, Militao, Varane, Marcelo; Modric (Kroos, min. 70), Casemiro, Valverde; Asensio, Jovic (Vinicius, min. 59), Rodrygo (Benzema, min. 46).
3.- Shakhtar Donetsk: Trubin; Dodo, Khocholava, Bondar, Korniienko; Marlos, Maycon, Tete, Marcos Antonio (Vinnuyk, min. 94), Solomon (Vitao, min. 92), Dentinho (Sudakov, min. 86).
Goals: 0-1, min. 29: Tete; 0-2, min. 33: Varane (og); 0-3, min. 42: Solomon; 1-3, min. 54: Modric; 2-3, min. 59: Vinicius
Referee: Srdan Jovanovic (Serbia).
Yellow cards: Kornienko (Min. 8) for Shakhtar Donetsk, Asensio (Min. 34) for Real Madrid, Bondar (Min. 81) for Shakhtar Donetsk, Militao (Min. 87) for Real Madrid.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: Alfredo Di Stefano.