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Shakhtar Donetsk 2 - 1 Arsenal: match report

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0 - 1 Walcott 9'
1 - 1 Eastmond og 27'
2 - 1 Eduardo 45'

Arsenal lost their fourth Champions League group H match today in Ukraine against a hard-pressing Shakhtar Donetsk side.  The Coal Miners remain unbeaten in the Donbass Arena and move level with Arsenal on points at the top of the group (although Arsenal still have a vastly superior goal difference).

Arsenal were forced by injury to field a somewhat-less-than-ideal midfield that included 19-year old Craig Eastmond at defensive midfield.  The match began somewhat evenly, both teams creating chances, the closest falling to Samir Nasri who hit the outside of the post with a low drive.

It would not take long for Arsenal to open the scoring.  From a Shakhtar corner, the ball was cleared as far as Jack Wilshere.  The Lad simply dinked the ball over the top to the center line, where Theo Walcott was already on his way past all of the Shakhtar defenders, racing completely free.  He looked up 30 yards from goal, shaped to shoot from 25, shot from 20, and curled one around a stranded Andriy Pyatov.  1-0, and Arsenal had taken control.

It did not last, however.

Arsenal's midfield and wingers struggled most of the game to make precise passes, and their touch was also stoney much of the time.  After Walcott's goal, Shakhtar's midfield really began pressing the Arsenal man in possession, and the forward line of Jadson, Luis Adriano, and Willian were set loose early and often on the counter.  Arsenal's defense struggled to keep Shakhtar at bay, and soon the dam would break.

Willian was brought down on the right, and Jadson swung in the free kick.  Eastmond had lost track of Dimitro Chigrynskiy, who headed powerfully towards goal.  Lukasz Fabianski would have had a chance at a save, but the ball took a more telling touch off of Eastmond's head and into the net.

1-1, and Shakhtar were suddenly more or less on top.  Arsenal's midfield was under tremendous pressure, and numerous passes were going astray.  Nicklas Bendtner had been swallowed up, crosses from Clichy and Walcott and Nasri all not reaching their destinations or even coming close.  Closer to halftime, Arsenal regained some of their passing sharpness, Bendtner releasing Walcott free on goal, only to have his chance snuffed out at the last moment by Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna.

Arsenal were looking to make it to the break more or less intact, but their former man Eduardo dealt their hopes a huge blow at the stroke of the break.  After Srna left Gael Clichy for dead on the left, he rushed down the byline and cut back for Eduardo to poke home with his left foot.  2-1, no celebration again from the (perhaps less now...nah) beloved ex-Gunner.

The second half started off more evenly, but Arsenal still struggled to make chances.  Eastmond came off for Carlos Vela in the 53rd minute, Samir Nasri sliding back into the midfield trio.  Bendtner and Walcott continued to work with Tomas Rosicky, the Czech testing Pyatov with his left.  Marouane Chamakh and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas would follow as the half dragged on, Arsenal looking better at times, but unable to find any spark.  Their best chance came five minutes from full time when Vela swiveled a shot away, but unfortunately, it was straight at the keeper.

As full-time approached, Shakhtar nearly found a third on the counter, but were content to merely starve the game out.  It was a tough loss, and far from a typical Arsenal performance, especially in Europe.  Ukraine has never been kind to the Gunners, though, and Shakhtar have never tasted defeat in their new arena in two years.

Emmanuel Eboué was Arsenal's best passer, at 88% (says a lot, really).  The midfield players, Jack Wilshere, Rosicky, and Eastmond, managed 74%, 73%, and 78%, respectively.  Bendtner was 17/31.  For a team that routinely averages an 80% passing rate at least, it was not a good performance, but missing Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, and Alex Song will do that to a team.  Arsenal will have to brush the shoulder off and prepare for Newcastle on Sunday.