Víctor ValdésOne of the heroes of the night for Barça against Shakhtar, goalie Victor Valdés is seen here in recent action
It would have been one of the greatest upsets in the history of football had Shakhtar Donetsk been able to overturn the 5-1 first leg defeat at the hands of FC Barcelona. In the end, the deficit only increased and, bar a miracle of similar proportions, tonight it will be Real Madrid following Barça through to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Any hopes of a Ukrainian comeback relied heavily on a flurry of early goals and most probably the sending off of the entire Barcelona defence. To their credit, Shakhtar did everything to get back into the tie but despite a blistering start and the dazzling skill of their Brazilian core, keeper Victor Valdés was not prepared to even humour the neutral with thoughts of an epic comeback.
First Douglas and then Jadson were brilliantly denied by the Barça number one but, as is the danger with all-out attack, the away side were always going to be dangerous on the counter. Andrei Pyatov continued the goalkeeping exhibition with good blocks of attempts by Afellay and Messi. But after missing a sitter by his standards, the magical Argentinian winger fired in low to the Shakhtar net on the stroke of half-time to end the contest once and for all.
Despite an imminent exit from the Champions League, the Ukrainians, who boast a marvellous home record, never let up in the second-half. The problematic Jadson was a handful all night and if his free-kick had gone in it would have been the least he deserved, but it was not to be thanks to the inspired Valdés. Both teams exchanged chances for the remainder of the match but neither was able to capitalise. So Barça march on to face the winner of Real Madrid vs Tottenham Hotspur but unless Spurs overturn a four goal margin, April looks poised to hold four 'El Clasico' confrontations - a 'gift' to football fans, according to Pep Guardiola.
Elsewhere, Manchester United beat a faltering Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford to book their spot in the next round, setting up a probable date with Schalke. The German side beat holders Inter Milan 5-2 in the first leg at the San Siro.