Defender Răzvan Raţ said "I would throw my boots away and finish with football altogether" if FC Shakhtar Donetsk were to stumble so close to the finishing line in Group H.
His statement must not be interpreted as arrogance, rather an indication of just how close Shakhtar are to making history with a first qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds after Tuesday's 3-0 win at FK Partizan. Top of the group and with a three-point lead over both Arsenal FC and SC Braga – their final opponents whom they have already beaten 3-0 away from home – Shakhtar are in an enviable position.
They could lose to the Portuguese side, 2-0 conquerors of Arsenal last night, in Donetsk in two weeks' time and still go through – provided any defeat is not by three goals or more. A mere point would guarantee top spot and a place among the top seeds in the 17 December draw for the last 16. "If we lose 4-0 at home to Braga I will quit for sure," Raţ told UEFA.com. "We are happy to win this game but not totally happy because we still need to focus on the last game. We did not expect Braga to beat Arsenal but that's how football goes."
After a slow start in Belgrade in which they were forced on the retreat, the visitors from Ukraine put their passing game together and seized hold of the match, scoring three times in 17 second-half minutes through Taras Stepanenko – making his debut in the competition – Jadson and substitute Eduardo.
"It was cold and in the beginning I think we were still sleeping," Romanian international full-back Raţ said, "but in the end we were very easy winners.
We want to write history for this club and qualify for the first time. We will fight to the death to do it."
Eduardo's goal meant he has hit the target in Shakhtar's last three Group H matches – twice after coming off the bench – yet the in-form forward urged caution ahead of the decider against Braga: "If we are not ready from the first minute they can make it difficult for us because they are a team with lots of Brazilians and they have good technical skills."
For Partizan it was a typical tale of frustration, with some dominant periods but ultimately the memory of a fifth loss in as many UEFA Champions League outings. "One time I would like us to play bad and win," midfielder Almami Moreira told UEFA.com. "
We controlled the game in the first 45 minutes but unfortunately they scored a goal, got their confidence and then scored a second and a third. After that it was very difficult to turn things around."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.