Mircea Lucescu’s men rallied after falling behind to Simone Perrotta’s 28th-minute header, Jadson replying within 60 seconds and Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano putting the visitors in command before the break. Although Jérémy Menez gave the hosts hope with a wonderful strike in the second period, the Ukrainian champions will host Claudio Ranieri’s side in three weeks’ time protecting a 3-2 lead.
Shakhtar looked fresh after their winter break and began brightly. Willian was particularly dangerous, racing down the left to supply a cross for Jadson, whose shot was blocked by John Arne Riise, and bursting through the midfield before being felled by the Norwegian full-back. The Brazilian’s resultant free-kick was pushed unconvincingly over the bar by Doni.
Buoyed on by the Curva Sud the hosts came to life. Nicolás Burdisso spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to break the deadlock after losing Tomáš Hübschman, only to head Francesco Totti’s corner wide from five metres. The Giallorossi were soon in front, though, Daniele De Rossi recovering a loose ball following another corner and sliding a pass to Rodrigo Taddei. Perrotta rose at the far post to meet his cross and Rãzvan Raţ could only help it over the line.
No sooner had they fallen behind than Shakhtar drew level. Willian again found space to cross from the left after a give-and-go with Jadson and, despite Roma clearing, Jadson was on hand to fire in a low shot which deflected off De Rossi and left Doni helpless. The home rearguard suddenly looked vulnerable at every Shakhtar attack and Lucescu’s charges took the lead on 36 minutes, Douglas Costa running from deep, cutting in from the right and curling an unstoppable shot past Doni.
Roma looked shell-shocked and uncertain as to how to cope with the flair and pace of the Pitmen’s lightning counterattacks. Matters only worsened four minutes before half-time when Riise slipped in possession, enabling Douglas to race down the right and set up Luiz Adriano for his fourth Champions League goal.
The home side had it all to do but rallied after the break, Totti and Menez growing in influence as the match wore on. Indeed it was the Frenchman – suspended for the second leg, as is Marco Cassetti – who reduced the arrears in the 61st minute, shaking off Jadson’s attentions before sending a delightful effort high past Andriy Pyatov from 20 metres.
Roma were now playing with more confidence but as they pushed forward laid themselves open to the counter-punch. Twice Doni denied Luiz Adriano with lunging tackles more in keeping with a full-back, while Henrik Mkhitaryan’s drive fizzed just wide.
The introduction of Marco Borriello gave the home attack more impetus, the Italian international threatening with a header and shot in the last ten minutes. Paolo Castellini, Totti and De Rossi also forced Pyatov into late action but the Pitmen held on for a famous victory.