FC Shakhtar Donetsk kicked off their Group H campaign with a 1-0 victory over FK Partizan, although Mircea Lucescu will wonder how his side ended up grimly hanging on after dominating the first 80 minutes.
The Ukrainian titleholders laid siege to Vladimir Stojković's goal from the off and for a long time a repeat of last season's 4-1 UEFA Europa League victory over the Serbian team was on the cards. But they had to wait until 19 minutes from time before Darijo Srna broke through with his first UEFA Champions League goal.
That, however, was merely the start of the drama as Partizan, until then moribund as an attacking force, swept forward. Nemanja Tomić, Stefan Savić and Mladen Krstajić were all denied by Andriy Pyatov as Shakhtar survived, Olexiy Gai almost making it 2-0 on the whistle when his low shot came back off the upright.
Before the match Partizan coach Aleksandar Stanojević had suggested his side could profit from the element of surprise, with Krstajić the only survivor from 12 months ago. Yet if they did have something up their sleeves the Belgrade club kept it well hidden until the dying minutes.
Instead, another of Stanojević's predictions was immediately borne out as Shakhtar's Douglas Costa proved every bit as dangerous as he feared, out-thinking then out-stripping the defence before sending in a cross that narrowly evaded team-mate Luiz Adriano. It was a sign of things to come.
Willian brought an acrobatic stop from Stojković with a flashing drive from distance, though the goalkeeper had no time for theatrics soon after when Srna found Luiz Adriano on the penalty spot. The Brazilian, with his back to goal and crowded by white shirts, somehow got a shot away – but straight at Stojković. Opportunities were coming thicker and faster. All Partizan could do was clear their lines, punt the ball downfield and wait for the next wave of Shakhtar attacks. The interval brought only temporary respite.
Partizan were increasingly indebted to skipper Stojković, who came quickly off his line to smother Jadson's attempted chip before a fine one-handed save to tip over Luiz Adriano's powerful header. Tensions were beginning to mount among the home support, the fragility of Shakhtar's position exposed midway through the half when Pyatov misjudged a cross and Krstajić looped the ball towards goal – Olexandr Kucher sparing his keeper's blushes on his line. Srna had seen enough: curling in a free-kick that proved enough to secure the points. Just.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.