FC Shakhtar Donetsk made a flying start to UEFA Champions League Group D, Brandão and Cristiano Lucarelli scoring inside the opening eight minutes without reply as Celtic FC’s away misery continued.
The Scottish title-holders had lost 12 of their 13 games on their travels in this competition prior to the trip to Donetsk, where they never looked like improving that statistic. Brandão pounced after just five minutes, with Cristiano Lucarelli marking his first UEFA Champions League start with a headed second three minutes later. Shakhtar can expect a sterner test at SL Benfica on 3 October, when Celtic face another daunting task against the holders AC Milan.
Shakhtar started with Tomáš Hübschman deputising for suspended captain Dmytro Chygrynskiy, and with intent as Fernandinho met a cross from stand-in skipper Darijo Srna and flashed a header just over the bar. Still, the home side did not have to wait long to score the opening goal of the night – and the group stage – as a Fernandinho pass dissected the Celtic defence and Brandão was coolness personified as he slipped the ball under Artur Boruc.
The Brazilian enjoys playing Celtic, having scored in a 3-0 victory for Shakhtar against the Scottish side in the 2004/05 group stage. The visitors probably feared a repeat of that heavy reverse as Lucarelli sent in a lob which narrowly missed the target, before making amends soon after by connecting with Răzvan Raţ’s perfect centre from the left and planting a header beyond Boruc to spark a frenzy in the Olympiyskiy stands.
By no means flattered by their 2-0 lead, the orange shirts continued to pour forward and looked threatening down both wings. Their next chance, on 19 minutes, came from one such foray as Rat darted down the left flank before finding Lucarelli who shot straight at Boruc. A Brandão effort disallowed for offside provided the cue for Celtic’s first attack, as Massimo Donati nutmegged a defender with a pass to Scott McDonald who called Andriy Pyatov into action with a shot turned behind.
With Celtic now settled, Shakhtar switched to playing on the counter, a tactic which almost reaped a reward in the 40th minute as Brandão and Srna combined to work a chance for Ilsinho. The Croatian’s cross fell perfectly for the Brazilian to unleash a fierce volley that Boruc saved superbly at full stretch. It was Shakhtar who again did the stretching after the break, Srna driving a shot from an acute angle into the side-netting on 53 minutes before Brandão headed wide following a neat hooked pass into the box from Mariusz Lewandowski.
With the game slipping away, Gordon Strachan introduced Aiden McGeady for Shunsuke Nakamura, the playmaker having been nullified down the left by Ilsinho and Srna, and Chris Killen for McDonald. Lucescu responded by bringing on Nery Alberto Castillo, and the €20m summer recruit twice went close to extending the lead in the latter stages after Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had shaved a post with Celtic's best chance.