Winners of the final edition of the UEFA Cup in May, FC Shakhtar Donetsk picked up where they left off to christen the UEFA Europa League era with a commanding 4-1 victory at Club Brugge KV in Group J.
The trophy-holders were a cut above their opponents at the Jan Breydel Stadium and racked up a three-goal lead inside 35 minutes through Olexiy Gai, Willian and Darijo Srna. The home side had certainly not lacked hunger up until that point, however their lack of composure cost them dearly and only when the game was effectively lost did they begin to express themselves, Karel Geraerts giving them hope after 62 minutes, before substitute Konstyantyn Kravchenko's 75th-minute free-kick ended the contest.
Shakhtar's superior technique was evident right from the start and it took them only eleven minutes to make it count, Gai unleashing a low drive after the ball had squirmed free to him following an excellent move. Club Brugge responded with Joseph Akpala's diving header forcing Andriy Pyatov into action, but the visitors' slick movement was too much for them and they fell further behind when Willian turned inside Jeroen Simaeys and curled the ball beyond Geert De Vlieger.
After that, the home side ended the half in better shape, conjuring efforts from Ivan Perišić, Akpala and Nabil Dirar – the latter prompting a superb Pyatov save – but the one chance that mattered was taken by Srna, Shakhtar's set-piece expert wrong-footing De Vlieger with a free-kick in front of goal. In contrast, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe then failed to beat Pyatov from the penalty spot shortly after the restart, Olexandr Kucher having fouled Dirar, but Adrie Koster's side finally registered when Wesley Sonck chested Dirar's searching ball to Geraerts and the midfielder half-volleyed in. Any home fans hoping for a comeback were promptly silenced by Kravchenko, however.