FC Steaua Bucuresti issued a warning to the rest of their Group E opponents by beginning their first UEFA Champions League group-stage campaign in a decade with a hugely impressive victory at FC Dynamo Kyiv.
Goals by Sorin Ghionea, Valentin Badea and Nicolae Dica put the Romanian champions in a commanding position after an electric first half and although Serhiy Rebrov also found the net for Dynamo in the opening period, the Ukrainian side's hopes were finally ended with eleven minutes remaining when Dica galloped clear to crown Steaua's night with a fine finish.
Steaua had made a sensational start in Kiev, taking the lead as early as the third minute and stunning the NSC Olympiyskiy Stadium into near-silence. Defender Ghionea, one of four players restored to the Steaua lineup after a 1-0 weekend win at FC 2005 Pitesti, ghosted into the box at the far post for an inswinging corner and his firm header set the goals rolling.
Three minutes later, Dynamo midfielder Ayila Yussuf had a shot kicked off the line by Rahamin Saban, although the whistle had already blown for a foul on Steaua goalkeeper Carlos Alberto Fernandes. Dynamo only had to wait until the 16th minute to draw level as Ukrainian international Rebrov scored his 20th UEFA Champions League goal – and his first since March 2000 - by powerfully prodding the ball past Fernandes after latching on to Diogo Rincón's incisive pass. Rebrov came close to adding to his total soon after but his swerving drive was too high to trouble Fernandes.
Steaua strike back
Steaua, determined not to be intimidated by their now resurgent hosts, found a higher gear and moved in front again with another header in the 24th minute. Badea was the marksman, stooping to connect with Dica's clever cross following a throw-in which caught Dynamo completely unawares and his diving effort beat Olexandr Shovkovskiy by going in off a post. Provider then turned scorer as Dica registered the fourth goal of an astonishing first half in the 43rd minute, curling in a superb free-kick from 25 metres to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.
Dynamo battled hard to get back into the match after the restart and looked their most threatening from set-pieces, as a series of deliveries induced a measure of panic in Steaua's rearguard, most notably when Rebrov volleyed into the side-netting from close range following a corner. Fellow forward Maksim Shatskikh also tested Fernandes with a flicked header but the Portuguese keeper was comfortably equal to the effort.
As a result of their increased forward thrusts, Dynamo were left totally exposed at the back as they chased the game and Dica made them pay with his second strike late on, sprinting into a seemingly endless amount of space before neatly clipping the ball over the onrushing Shovkovskiy for Steaua's fourth goal which capped a memorable return to the UEFA Champions League group stage.