Henrik Mkhitaryan's first and second UEFA Champions League goals earned a 2-0 reward for FC Shakhtar Donetsk after a dominant performance against group stage newcomers FC Nordsjælland.
The attacking midfielder has been in deadly form this term, netting 12 times in just nine Ukrainian Premier League games. He continued that rich vein of form at the Donbass Arena in this Group E opener, his well-taken goals at the end of each half clinching a deserved three points. The hosts did not have it all their own way, though, especially in the first 44 minutes.
The Danish title holders are new to this stage and began cautiously, defending in numbers and putting the onus on Shakhtar to find a way through. Despite enjoying the vast majority of possession, the home side were frustrated for long periods and while Jesper Hansen in the Nordsjælland goal was never at ease, he hardly had a save to make.
With half-time approaching the Pitmen finally found their rhythm. Mkhitaryan went close, and though one powerful shot from the No22 was well stopped by Hansen with his legs, the keeper was helpless a minute before the break. Fernandinho retrieved the ball in midfield and delivered a perfectly weighted through ball that allowed Luiz Adriano to identify his man before pulling it back to Mkhitaryan near the edge of the box. The Armenian international finished first time.
Buoyed by the breakthrough, Shakhtar continued to hold sway after the restart and could have doubled their advantage early in the second half. Hansen failed to hold Darijo Srna's stinging volley from distance but reacted brilliantly to deny Tomáš Hübschman from close range. The Ukrainian champions were in control and really should have put the game out of reach. Luiz Adriano and Willian both threatened a second.
The match was eventually over as a contest with 14 minutes to go as Mkhitaryan increased his tally. Mircea Lucescu's men broke quickly and the 23-year-old unselfishly tried to square to substitute Marko Dević. The ball ricocheted back off a defender, though, and he made no mistake with a cool left-footed finish from ten metres out.
Shakhtar might even have extended their lead, with Hansen producing a stunning late save from Dević, but they will be relieved to have picked up their first win at the Donbass Arena in this competition in almost 18 months.
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