Reigning champions FC Shakhtar Donetsk picked up from where they left off at the end of last season as they took an early lead in the Ukrainian Premier League.
Having already defeated FC Dynamo Kyiv on penalties to lift the Ukrainian Super Cup, Shakhtar began the new league campaign in some style, winning five in a row to quickly open up a three-point lead at the summit. The run is all the more significant because the team have been without international strikers Julius Aghahowa and Andriy Vorobey through injury and Mircea Lucescu will hope his side can take their domestic form into the UEFA Champions League when they face FC Internazionale Milano in the third qualifying round starting on 10 August.
Rivals Dynamo have already been eliminated from the competition - at the hands of Swiss side FC Thun - and by their lofty standards, the eleven-time league champions have endured a lacklustre start to the domestic season too. Coach Leonid Buryak has lost his job despite following up a 1-1 draw in their opening match against UEFA Cup hopefuls FC Metalurh Donetsk with three straight victories.
Dynamo looked destined for defeat in their fifth fixture, after going a goal down at home against FC Illychivets Mariupil, before heavy rain forced the referee to abandon the game at the interval. The final 45 minutes of the game resumed the following day and the home side managed to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw but it was not enough to save Buryak as Dynamo fell four points off the pace in third position.
Matters are considerably worse at UEFA Cup contenders FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, who lie 14th after losing four of their opening five matches - their worst run of results under coach Evgeniy Kucherevskiy.
FC Metalist Kharkiv lie second having made a promising start under new coach Mirom Markevich with four wins in their first four games. Such form saw them lead the table on goal difference until they lost 3-1 at Metalurh, after Serhiy Shyshchenko scored a hat-trick.
Elsewhere, Valeriy Yaremchenko was the first managerial casualty of the season when he was sacked at FC Metalurh Zaporizhya after they slipped to the foot of the table after collecting just one point from five games.
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