Valencia CF qualified for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare after they twice came from behind to earn a Group D point at FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Jadson Rodriguez and Fernandinho claimed their first goals in the tournament either side of a strike from Fernando Morientes to put the Ukrainian champions in the driving seat at the break and on course for victory. But Roberto Ayala salvaged a draw for the visitors with a second-half header to spoil Shakhtar's hopes of marking their 100th game in UEFA club competition with a win, while Olympiacos CFP holding AS Roma at least keeps their mathematical chances alive.
Fielding an adventurous 4-3-3 formation, Mircea Lucescu had asked his charges to be more focused and they certainly came out with the bit between their teeth. It took the hosts just two minutes to open the scoring, Jadson curling an exquisite free-kick past the helpless Santiago Cañizares after Fernandinho had been felled by Raúl Albiol. Shakhtar's high-octane opening continued and they were within a whisker of doubling their advantage when Matuzalem hit the post after a defence-splitting burst from Julius Aghahowa. The Nigerian then forced Cañizares into a scrambling save.
However, Shakhtar's enthusiasm was punctured on 18 minutes when Valencia equalised completely against the run of play. A low free-kick from David Villa, who had scored twice in Valencia's 2-0 triumph on Matchday 3, was cruelly deflected past Bohdan Shust by Morientes for his 31st competition goal.
That failed to knock Shakhtar out of their stride, though, and after Brandão had warmed the hands of Cañizares with a rasping drive, the local favourites regained the lead on 28 minutes with another stunning strike. Fernandinho picked up possession nearly 30 metres out, ran at the retreating Valencia defence before beating Cañizares with a swerving right-footed shot. It was the least Shakhtar deserved from a pulsating first half during which they mustered 14 attempts on goal to Valencia's five.
Knowing a victory would rubber-stamp their place in the knockout rounds, Valencia were looking largely overpowered, particularly in midfield where they missed the class of the injured David Albelda, Rubén Baraja and Vicente Rodríguez. Yet Shakhtar struggled to rediscover their rhythm at the start of the second half and Valencia gradually began to establish a foothold in the tie. Morientes tested Shust with a rising drive before Ayala stooped to head the equaliser from a Villa corner.
Sensing that Shakhtar were tiring, Quique Sánchez Flores went for the jugular by replacing Morientes with Joaquín Sánchez and it was the visitors who seemed the side more likely to snatch a winner. Already without Asier del Horno and Carlos Marchena, Flores saw his injury woes compounded when David Navarro was withdrawn late on with a facial knock but the coach now has plenty of time to get his squad patched up for the last 16. Shakhtar must defeat Olympiacos and Roma to have any chance of joining them.