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Brandão strike spares Shakhtar

Wednesday, 16 February 2005

[1] Brazilian striker Brandão struck four minutes from time to cancel out compatriot Ailton's early goal and earn FC Shakhtar Donetsk a draw at home to FC Schalke 04 in the UEFA Cup Round of 32.

Early shock

[2] Ailton gave the German side a seventh-minute lead but the visitors were unable to build on that advantage. Shakhtar threw everything at them in the second half, and just as it seemed their relentless pressure would go unrewarded, Brandão broke through in the 86th minute to leave the tie perfectly poised ahead of next Thursday's return leg.

New signings rested

[3] Despite both having dabbled in the winter transfer market, neither club fielded new faces in their starting lineups. For Shakhtar, the Brazilian trio of Ivan Saraiva, Jadson Rodriguez and Elano Blumer - a €7.6m signing from Santos FC - started on the bench. Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick, meanwhile, opted again for the in-form Ailton up front.

Initial threat

[4] The away team started with confidence, Ebbe Sand tucking Niels Oude-Kamphuis's cross just the wrong side of Jan Laštuvka's left-hand post in the second minute. Although Shakhtar tried to rally, the visitors went ahead with their next attack, Sven Vermant finding Sand with his back to goal, and the Dane's overhead kick freed Ailton for a clinical finish across Czech goalkeeper Laštuvka that crept in at the far post.

Brandão's strength

[5] Shakhtar refused to panic and, thanks largely to the aerial strength of Brandão, worked their way back into the game. The big centre-forward first tested Frank Rost with a dipping 25-metre effort four minutes after Ailton's goal and then forced the Schalke goalkeeper to block a low shot with his foot.

Shakhtar break

[6] Schalke largely relied on Ailton and Sand on the counterattack, but this approach nearly backfired as Anatoliy Tymoschuk almost equalised after Shakhtar had cleared a rare Schalke corner. Julius Aghahowa had Shakhtar's best chance of the first period on 41 minutes, latching on to Razvan Rat's high ball, only for his thunderous strike to rebound off Rost's head. The goalkeeper required treatment, but was able to play on.

Fresh legs

[7] Elano came on for Shakhtar at the break as coach Mircea Lucescu looked for more creativity, and the playmaker's first contribution was to curl a cross towards Aghahowa that the Nigerian striker could only glance wide. Aghahowa's frustrating night continued in the 55th minute when he failed to beat Rost from deep inside the area with the goal at his mercy. With that miss Shakhtar's hopes seemed to be fading, with Laštuvka then forced to block from Levan Kobiashvili.

Last word

[8] Ailton almost snatched his second on 83 minutes, hitting the crossbar after Laštuvka had parried his initial effort. But Shakhtar responded with one more push, and Brandão finally gave them their reward to leave the tie well balanced ahead of next week's return in Gelsenkirchen.

Julius Aghahowa (left) tries to put Levan Kobiashvili under pressure