FC Shakhtar Donetsk had a mixture of good fortune and excellent goalkeeping from Stipe Pletikosa to thank for a goalless draw in their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round first leg away to Moldovan title-holders FC Sheriff.
Although both teams went hunting for goals, Sheriff will consider themselves the unluckier for not having registered over the 90 minutes. Pletikosa was called into action as early as the fifth minute when Vadim Boret broke down the right flank to force a save from the Croatian international.
Shakhtar, seemingly content to wait for their chance in the return leg in Ukraine, created their first opening in the 14th minute but Olexiy Bielik was crowded out by Moldovan defenders as he sought to meet Andriy Vorobey's cross. Three minutes later, Vorobey again provided Bielik with another cross from the right, but Sheriff goalkeeper Sebastian Hutan made a fine reflex save. The Ukrainians then tested Hutan from range with shots from Anatoliy Tymoschuk and Razvan Rat, but the Sheriff keeper was equal to their efforts.
Tudor comes close
For the home side, Panamanian international Alberto Blanco slipped in front of goal when released by Cristian Tudor. Then Tudor himself went close eight minutes before the break but shot over. But Shakhtar hit back and only some excellent goalkeeping from Hutan prevented Olexiy Gai breaking the deadlock.
Sheriff denied again
Leandro Farinas's deflected effort grazed the Shakhtar post early in the second half, but Sheriff came even closer in the 69th minute when Victor Barîsev crossed for Serghey Dadu to head against the crossbar from point-blank range. Barîsev should have done better seconds later when he chose to shoot instead of passing as Sheriff attackers bore down on goal. Other chances came and went for the hosts with Andriy Nesteruk and Ion Testemitanu spurning fine opportunities.
Pletikosa on hand
Before the end, Pletikosa pulled off his best save of the night from Boret, and there was even time for Shakhtar to signal their attacking intent when Adrian Pukanykh went close. However, the visitors will now have home advantage next week with the winners to play Russian champions FC Lokomotiv Moskva.