Shakhtar Donetsk captain Taras Stepanenko said it was beyond his “wildest dreams” to thrash RB Leipzig 4-1 in their Champions League opener at the Red Bull Arena.
Igor Jovicevic’s team became the first Ukrainian side to compete in the Champions League since the country was invaded by Russia, and they marked the occasion with an unlikely victory on their travels.
Despite enjoying just 32 per cent of the possession and attempting a mere four shots on target, Shakhtar scored with each of those through a Marian Shved double and further goals from Mykhaylo Mudryk and Lassina Traore.
Jovicevic’s visitors finished with an expected goals total of just 1.2, compared to the 1.4 of Leipzig, who thought they had got back into the game through Mohamed Simakan’s equaliser – only to fall apart soon after.
The defeat for Leipzig potentially leaves coach Domenico Tedesco’s future in doubt, with the Bundesliga side winning only one of five league games, but this was a memorable victory for Shakhtar.
“I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams such a game with four goals for us. But we played well and I feel we deserved that result tonight,” Stepanenko told reporters.
“I have been with the club for over a decade. This is a new team, but many of these young players are from the Shakhtar academy, so they have the Shakhtar spirit and this really helps us a lot.
“We are a tight group and have a lot of spirit. When I saw the draw, I immediately knew it was going to be a tough group, but I also knew we have a good team and should be able to get results.
“We want to progress, but with young players sometimes you are lacking consistency.”
— FC SHAKHTAR DONETSK (@FCShakhtar) September 6, 2022
Shakhtar already have more points (three) and goals (four) than they earned in the entirety of last season’s group stage (two points, two goals).
Their next task will see them face Celtic, who were 3-0 losers to reigning European champions Real Madrid in the other Group F game, but for now Jovicevic expressed his delight after seeing his positivity pay dividends.
“When the counter-attack for the third goal came and the ball was at Mudryk’s feet, I already raised my arms in celebration because I know from training that he scores when he is through one on one with the keeper,” Jovicevic said.
“I tried to give this positive energy and it’s all about being positive.”
Shved became the 10th different Ukrainian player to score on his Champions League debut and just the second of those to do so while playing for Shakhtar – after Stepanenko in November 2010.
Jovicevic added praise for Shved, who also became the first Ukrainian to score a brace in the competition since Junior Moraes for Shakhtar at Lyon in October 2018.
“I know Marian Shved from my time at Lviv, and when Sevilla took him, I wanted him back,” Jovicevic said.
“Now I am happy that he is back in my team. He is a hard worker, quick and powerful, and I know what he is capable of.”
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