|A||Real Sociedad||Shakhtar Donetsk|
FC Shakhtar Donetsk drew on all their experience to withstand a barrage of pressure and then produce an Alex Teixeira double that ruined Real Sociedad de Fútbol's long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League with a 2-0 Group A victory.
Despite Real Sociedad hitting the bar and forcing goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov into numerous saves on their first appearance in the competition since 2003/04, two cracking second-half drives from midfielder Teixeira gave Mircea Lucescu's side three valuable away points on matchday one. A dark night in San Sebastian ended with home substitute Esteban Granero carried off injured.
Initially, given the soaking wet, electric-quick playing surface and with the visitors hunting in packs, the scene was set for the type of error which a novice UEFA Champions League outfit might make in eagerness to impress. But the sheer work-rate of Jagoba Arrasate's team increasingly put them in charge of the ball, the first half and, importantly, the situation.
With the Anoeta crowd demanding all-out attack, the experience of players like captain Xabi Prieto, and the non-stop energy of Rubén Pardo, brought equilibrium to their performance. What stood out, however, was the technical excellence and abundant confidence of La Real's French starlet Antoine Griezmann. Popping up as a wing-back, midfield playmaker and then second striker he spread confusion in the Shakhtar ranks. Griezmann's was the first chance, a third-minute shot from Prieto's assist.
He also conjured the match's moment of 24-carat brilliance. Running onto a loose ball, his cushioned volley-pass skimmed the 35 metres into the path of Carlos Vela's run. Only a quality interception from Yaroslav Rakitskiy stopped a goal. As the hosts' domination grew, Pardo saw his one-on-one saved by Pyatov; a free-kick deflected just wide; and Prieto's pre-rehearsed move from a corner allowed him a dipping volley which startled the keeper.
Even after the break, as the Anoeta roared approval, it seemed this might be a fairy-tale return to Europe's top table. The soon-to-be substituted Haris Seferovic, from a lovely Iñigo Martínez pass, drew a fine stop from Pyatov and a booming Alberto de la Bella cross caused the keeper a moment of embarrasment as he flailed at the ball.
But Shakhtar – beaten by Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 last season – drew on their know-how, stayed calm and struck. When Darijo Srna thundered down the right and centred, Douglas Costa produced a tiny flick which Mikel González hadn't anticipated in time; this enabled the 23-year-old Teixeira to finish as if he already knew it was all going to happen that way.
Before the end, Vela's header smacked the bar for last term's fourth-place finishers in the Liga. However, experience overcame exuberance as young Brazilian Teixeira cut onto his right foot and thumped a drive past Claudio Bravo with three minutes left. The Ukrainian champions were up and running.
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