FC BATE Borisov, UEFA Champions League group stage participants last season, took their first step towards repeating the feat with goals either side of half-time earning them a comfortable 2-0 win at FK Makedonija Skopje.
The Belarussian champions were in the ascendancy from start to finish against their hosts from FYR Macedonia and were rewarded when Sergei Krivets gave them a 40th-minute lead, with Maksim Skavysh doubling the advantage five minutes after the restart.
The visitors, who earned two draws against Juventus and another away to FC Zenit St. Petersburg in UEFA Champions League Group H last year, had to wait 28 minutes to fashion their first real chance, but Skavysh's header was saved by Danilo Pustinjaković. BATE finally crowned their domination when Krivets, who impressed for Belarus at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals this summer, burst past two defenders and fired in from 16 metres.
The second goal shortly after the interval put the result beyond doubt as Skavysh capitalised on mistakes by Daniel Mojsov and Blagoja Milevski and finished when one-on-one with Pustinjaković. The hosts created their best chance of the match on 72 minutes but Nijas Lena's header from a Milan Ilievski cross dropped wide, leaving Ilco Gjorgjioski's charges an uphill challenge in next Tuesday's return.