Mkhitaryan fires Shakhtar to opening win
Champions League Group E, Donbass Arena – Shakhtar Donetsk 2 (Mkhitaryan 45', 76') Nordsaelland 0
Henrik Mkhitaryan scored twice as Shakhtar Donetsk got their Champions League campaign off to a flying start with a 2-0 win over debutantes Nordsjaelland in the Donbass Arena.
Shakhtar took the lead on the stroke of half-time before sealing the points in comfortable fashion with a second goal in the 76th minute.
Shakhtar opened the scoring when Luiz Adriano fired in an inch perfect cross from the left-hand touchline for Mkhitaryan, who guided the ball neatly past Jesper Hansen in the Nordsjaelland goal.
The Armenian midfielder followed that strike up with a rather more fortuitous effort after the break. A Shakhtar counter-attack which started off in their own half was not cut off by the Nordsjaelland defence and following a half clearance, the ball broke loose to Mkhitaryan who calmly slotted the ball low and to the right of the Danish keeper.
The game got off to a slow start with Nordsjaelland, making their first appearance in the group stages of the competition, enjoying the lion's share of possession. Shakhtar seemed content to sit off their Danish opponents who themselves failed to threaten the Ukranian champions and for large parts of the first half Nordsjaelland were allowed to pass the ball around in and around the halfway line.
The game livened up when Willian had half a chance for Shakhtar on 21 minutes. The Brazilian picked up the ball half way inside the Nordsjaelland half before ghosting across in front of the back four and rifling off a shot. This was deflected out for a corner and eventually cleared from danger.
The first real chance of the game fell to the Danish champions on 28 minutes when Nicolai Stokholm broke free outside the Shakhtar box and launched a shot goalwards. Andriy Pyatov in the Shakhtar goal was powerless to do anything other than palm the shot away for his defenders to clear.
Mkhitaryan broke the deadlock just before the break with a perfect finish to give the home side the lead going in at half-time.
The second half began with Shakhtar on top. On the 51st minute, Darijo Srna was unlucky not to hit the back of the net with a sublime volley. He latched on to a corner from Willian and had his shot not been hit straight at Hansen his side would have been two to the good.
Willian had a chance of his own on 72 minutes but his shot from 30 yards was well saved by Hansen, who was keeping his side in with a shout.
On 73 minutes substitute Alex Teixeira was gifted a chance as Adriano picked him out with a low pass across the penalty spot. Teixeira completely missed his kick and the ball trickled away.
Shakhtar got what they deserved in the 76th minute when Mkhitaryan found the back of the net and give the home side some breathing space. However, Shakhtar continued to pressure the newcomers and could have had two or three more goals had their finishing been a bit shaper.
Kudos to Hansen in the Nordsjaelland goal too as, though somewhat unorthodox, he came for, and collected or cleared almost everything that Shakhtar could throw at him. With Chelsea and Juventus also in this group it will be a boost for Shakhtar to get some points on the board before the face either of those European giants.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Luiz Adriano – Shakhtar: The Brazilian was a livewire and involved in every good move - including crossing for Mkhitaryan's first goal.
Shakhtar Donetsk: Pyatov 6, Rat 7, Rakitskiy 7, Kucher 6, Srna 7, Fernandinho 7, Hubschman 7, Willian 8, Mkhitaryan 9, Ilsinho 7, Luiz Adriano 9.
Nordsjaelland: Hansen 8, Parkhurst 7, Okore 6, Runje 6, Mtiliga 6, Stokholm, 6, Adu 6, Lorentzen 6, Christensen 6, John 8, Beckmann 7.