By Igor Linnyk
FC Shakhtar Donetsk have high hopes of ending a two-year absence from the UEFA Champions League group stage after claiming a three-goal lead in their third qualifying round tie against Club Brugge KV.
Brugge beat BV Borussia Dortmund at this stage last season, but were troubled throughout in rainy conditions in Ukraine. Despite this, they had looked well-poised after Boško Balaban equalised Julius Aghahowa's early goal, but Mircea Lucescu's side scored three times in the last 20 minutes to take control of the tie ahead of the return in Belgium on 25 August.
The hosts went close on nine minutes, Razvan Rat picking up the ball in midfield and breaking to cross but Andriy Vorobey's header was cleared off the line. Within seven minutes though, Flavius Stoican centred the ball, Ciprian Marica flicked on and Julius Aghahowa dived in to head Shakhtar ahead.
The home side kept up the pressure for the rest of the half, and Tomislav Butina had to dive at full stretch to deny Zvonimir Vukic when he shot from distance in the 38th minute. Within seconds, the goalkeeper was in action again, this time saving another powerful Aghahowa effort. Butina then kept Cosmin Barcauan at bay with his legs, and Vukic shot wide moments before the break, with Brugge relieved to be only 1-0 down.
However, Brugge came out for the second half transformed. First Victor beat two home defenders on the right wing and shot against the post. Then Gert Verheyen intercepted a Shakhtar pass and fed Balaban, who burst into the area and struck the ball past Jan Laštuvka to level the scores.
The next 20 minutes were a tight affair, but just as it seemed Brugge were heading for a useful away result, Shakhtar were back in front. Vukic's pass found Marica in the penalty box and he stole the ball from a visiting defender before applying a confident finish.
Seven minutes later Matuzalem's incisive pass allowed Vorobey to break into the Brugge box from the left, and after beating two defenders his shot found the corner of Butina's goal. Shakhtar continued to press and Vorobey, recently recalled to the Ukraine squad after a two-year absence, broke down the right and crossed to substitute Brandão, who duly found the net to further delight the home fans.