Shakhtar Donetsk twice came from behind to see off a spirited challenge from Nordsjælland to romp to a 5-2 win in Copenhagen and put them top of a tight Champions League Group E.
But the major talking point was an outrageous act of poor sportsmanship from Luiz Adriano, who went on to complete a hat-trick, that led to an equalising goal and arguably changed the complexion of the match.
An evenly balanced and well contested game was turned on its head in five frantic and five scarcely believable minutes as Adriano cancelled out Morten Nordstrand’s opener in the most controversial of circumstances.
The home side had deservedly taken the lead in the 23rd minute as the dangerous Joshua John whipped in one of many telling balls for the unmarked Nordstrand to fire past Andriy Pyatov from close range.
Straight from the kick-off, goalscorer Nordstrand hit the deck under a challenge from Fernandinho. Referee Antony Gautier decided on a drop ball to Shakhtar and Willian sportingly chose to play it back to keeper Jesper Hansen. But Adriano clearly had not read the script or the fair play rule book and instead latched onto the ball, taking it past an incredulous Hansen before slotting it into an empty net.
Scenes of outrage followed and both teams looked puzzled as how to continue. The general consensus was that Shakhtar would let Nordsjælland score an uncontested goal but as Nikolai Stokholm ran towards the opposition defence, Taras Stepanenko decided he would tackle him after all. Evidently, coach Mircea Lucescu had not instructed his players to do the sporting thing.
With an incensed crowd on its feet, justice was done only four minutes later as Kasper Lorentzen turned and shot brilliantly into the roof of the net. But the lead was short lived as the increasingly influential Willian smashed home from Fernandinho’s cut back.
Even before the Nordsjælland opener and the controversy that followed, both sides had their chances. A wonderful pass from Willian found Razvan Rat on the left and his cross put the ball on a plate for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to tap into an empty net but he inexplicably missed the target. Moments later, Pyatov denied Ivan Runje with a superb low save straight from the corner although referee Gautier wrongly blew for a foul by Jores Okore in the box.
Three goals in five minutes had the crowd on its feet for more than one reason before Willian, who had done nothing apart from the infamous pass back to Hansen, then began to find his feet, cutting back to Mkhitaryan who shot just wide. Mkhitaryan then went even closer, flashing a shot just wide before Willian levelled matters shortly before the break, smashing home via a slight deflection off Fernandinho’s back after initial good work from the Brazilian.
Many believed Shakhtar would still do the right thing on resumption and let Nordsjælland score in the belief that they would still go on and win the game with their football doing the talking. Far from it, the Ukrainians instead immediately went for the jugular. Mkhitaryan was set through on goal by Fernandinho only for Hansen to save well with his legs but straight from the resultant corner, Willian unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner for his second to put the visitors ahead for the first time only five minutes into the second half.
And with their noses ahead and the momentum behind them, Shakhtar were further ahead two minutes later, Adriano getting a more acceptable second from Alex Texeira’s pass.
Nordstrand spurned a great chance to pull one back for the hosts before Adriano notched his third, smashing home substitute Douglas Costa’s knock down, much to the chagrin of the home crowd.
Victory means that Shakhtar are through with 10 points and Chelsea must beat Nordsjælland and hope that Juventus beat Shakhtar to qualify.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Willian – Shakhtar Donetsk: Shakhtar’s most creative attacking force as so often this season. Almost unplayable in the second half and scored two well-taken goals.
NORDSJAELLAND: Hansen 6, Okore 6, Mtiliga 6, Parkhurst 6, Runje 6, Adu 6, Stokholm 7, Christensen 6, Lorentzen 7, Nordstrand 6, John 7. SUBS: Ticinovic 6, Christiansen 6, Aynaoglu 6.
SHAKHTAR: Pyatov 6, Kucher 6, Rat 6, Rakitskiy 6, Stepanenko 6, Fernandinho 7, Willian 8, Alex Texeira 6, Srna 6, Adriano 8, Mkhitaryan 6. SUBS: Douglas Costa 6, Ilsinho 6, Eduardo 6.