It took him 83 games and over a decade, but the wait was worth it for Răzvan Raţ as he scored his first European goal to help FC Shakhtar Donetsk into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the first time as Group H winners.
With Shakhtar's final game at home to SC Braga heading for a goalless draw, the left-back, 29, beat visiting goalkeeper Artur with a fine left-footed drive from the edge of the area. His 78th-minute strike was the Romanian international's first goal in more than ten years of UEFA club competition action. "Anything can happen," he said. "Sometimes my shots go straight at the keeper or end up in the crowd, but today was my lucky day."
Raţ turned provider five minutes later, skipping down the left flank before teeing up Luiz Adriano for the simplest of finishes to make the points safe. "
This is a great night for Shakhtar as we managed to get through to the knockout stages, so I will go out and celebrate," said the long-serving defender.
Despite dominating for long periods, Shakhtar appeared set for a night of frustration until Raţ's intervention. The Ukrainian champions played plenty of intricate football, but wastefulness in front of goal and a poor final ball looked like costing Mircea Lucescu's side top billing in the section.
"In a game like this, where Braga were proving so difficult to break down, you are always looking for something a bit unexpected," added centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy. "Thankfully Răzvan managed to produce something we weren't expecting and that helped us get this all-important victory."
Braga had kept Shakhtar at bay for the first 56 minutes of their Matchday 2 encounter in Portugal before buckling to lose 3-0. The rematch was not altogether dissimilar, although visiting captain Vandinho was able to take positives from the Arsenalistas' maiden group stage campaign as they drop into the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
"I would like to congratulate all the players as it's been a great experience playing in the Champions League for the first time," he said. "
It didn't go our way today, but I still think we can be proud of ourselves for doing so well in such a difficult competition."
Chygrynskiy, meanwhile, was looking forward to the UEFA Champions League last-16 draw. "We have proved to be the strongest team in the group," the Ukraine player said. "We don't know who we will get in the draw, we just have to look at our own strengths. We are Shakhtar, we finished top of our group, we beat Arsenal, and we're confident we can beat any team we face. We're a team that's moving forward."