Athletic Club 0-0 FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Athletic made a battling return to the group stage as they resisted concerted pressure – and created some of their own – to earn a point.
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• Athletic hold Shakhtar in their first UEFA Champions League game since 1998/99
• Visitors' greater composure poses the bigger threat, though Athletic pile on late pressure
• The hosts throw men forward throughout but short on magic in final third
• Next games: BATE v Athletic, Shakhtar v Porto (30 September)
Despite needing to weather heavy late pressure from Athletic Club, FC Shakhtar Donetsk were good value for their point in a high-octane Group H game in Bilbao.
Fuelled by a wall of noise supplied by the Estadio de San Mamés faithful revelling in a first UEFA Champions League group encounter since 1998/99, Athletic barrelled into Shakhtar Donetsk early on – an approach that nearly brought instant reward, only for Mikel Rico to scoop wide from Beñat's pass.
It did not take long for Mircea Lucescu's experienced charges to find their feet, however, and Athletic's in-form goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz needed all his agility on the quarter-hour mark to divert Darijo Srna's venomous cross away from Luiz Adriano. But having dealt well with a spell of visiting intent, the Leones roared back, Ibai Gómez sending a delightful free-kick curling past the post with Andriy Pyatov beaten.
It was a first half high on intensity but lacking in real quality, and the second period continued in a similar vein – both sides throwing men forward though without the guile to evade increasingly tigerish defending. Yet even as the volume levels increased at San Mamés – the Athletic crowd desperate to see Ernesto Valverde's team get off to a winning start – the composure of the visitors, 2009 UEFA Cup winners, gave them a greater edge.
The sides continued to go all out for victory, Shakhtar's Douglas Costa and the hosts' Ibai Gómez drawing solid saves from Iraizoz and Pyatov respectively prior to a late Athletic siege on the Shakhtar box. A hard-earned point seemed just about fair.