Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Antonio Rüdiger’s last-minute equalizer secured Madrid a draw after Oleksandr Zubkov’s opener

A bloody Antonio Rudiger gave Real Madrid a point against Shakhtar Dontesk, leaving the Ukrainians just seconds from a famous win over the European champions.

Blood spurted from Rüdiger’s face as he felt the full force of Shakhtar keeper Anatolii Trubin in the 95th minute. Just before the impact, he had headed into Toni Kroos’ cross and brought Real Madrid back on track with the last attack of the game. The 1-1 draw leaves Madrid 10 points ahead and Shakhtar in third, a point behind second-placed RB Leipzig.

Until Madrid’s final attack, Shakhtar were on the verge of taking a big step towards knockout qualification.

Their coach – a former Real Madrid youth player – Igor Jovicevic – had spoken at length ahead of the game about how his players had been devastated by events in their home country this week.

He described an almost impossible training session on the eve of that game because the players’ minds were elsewhere, worried about relatives who were “hiding in basements” at home from Russia’s bombing.

But he insisted that game should go ahead because football was a chance to provide a form of positive distraction to a terrorized population. His players didn’t miss out.

The electric Mykhailo Mudryk was their biggest threat in the first half.

But they deservedly took the lead on the restart when Bogdan Mykhaylichenko crossed from the left and Ferland Mendy ran to the spot at the back post, Oleksandr Zubkov lobbed to pass Andriy Lunin just inside his near post.

Carlo Ancelotti’s reaction was to immediately tell both Vinicius and Luka Modric to prepare for their substitution.

Eden Hazard, perhaps sensing his engagement was about to end, missed his second pass within minutes and by the 56th minute he was substituted with Aurelien Tchouameni walking with him.

The changes didn’t alter the pattern of play and a sweeping move down the left ended in Burkino Faso-born Lassina Traore’s clean strike.

Lunin came down well to scrabble the ball away from him but then spilled it back to the forward, who sent his shot off the bar.

Madrid were closer to conceding a second than getting back into the game and Ancelotti turned back to his substitutes with David Alaba, Marco Asensio and Eduardo Camavinga.

Again, the move only provoked more chances for the home side, with the towering Zubkov turning away from Kroos, only for Alaba to block his shot. The same player had also shoved a long shot away from Lunin.

Madrid came close in the 90th minute but Rudiger’s header was missed by Trubin and it looked like Shakhtar saved, but Rudiger equalized just as the home side’s bench was preparing to celebrate a win.

The Ukrainians are next at Celtic Park before beating RB Leipzig 4-1 away in their last game.

Reaching the Champions League round of 16 still seems within reach despite this late setback.

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