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Shakhtar Donetsk, the reigning Ukrainian champion, kicked off its 2023-24 Champions League campaign at its new temporary home in Germany. The team was greeted by a near-capacity crowd of over 46,700 at the Volksparkstadion, a move forced by UEFA’s decision not to allow home European games in Ukraine due to the ongoing Russian invasion.
Despite spirited support for Shakhtar, Porto wasted no time and took less than eight minutes to open the scoring. Shakhtar’s goalkeeper, Dmytro Riznyk, who had recently returned from injury, deflected a speculative shot into the path of Galeno, who capitalized on the opportunity to score.
Shakhtar, once known for signing talented Brazilian players, has shifted its focus to younger, locally developed talent since the invasion last year. Five of the starting lineup were aged 22 or younger, with 19-year-old Venezuelan forward Kevin Kelsy making his Champions League debut by heading in an equalizer. This sparked jubilant celebrations, with Ukrainian fans, including those displaced by the war, among the crowd in Hamburg, and the stadium erupted in approval of Kelsy’s goal.
Inexperience in Shakhtar’s injury-depleted defense was evident soon after, as Porto swiftly restored and extended its lead. Galeno capitalized on a wayward pass across the defense and scored past Riznyk.
Although Galeno didn’t score Porto’s third goal, he played a crucial role with a surging run down the left flank before crossing for Mehdi Taremi to score. Taremi slipped in between midfielder Taras Stepanenko and left-back Novatus Miroshi, as Shakhtar’s central defenders were caught out of position.
Porto eased off in the second half, and Shakhtar had limited success in its attempts to get back into the game. Nonetheless, attacks down the right flank forced saves from Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa at his near post. Stav Lemkin, a 20-year-old center-back, limped off with a thigh injury, leaving Shakhtar to finish the game with Miroshi out of position as a central defender.
Porto coach Sérgio Conceição expressed his satisfaction with the win and emphasized the team’s goal of reaching the last 16 in the Champions League.
Shakhtar, which played its home games in Poland last year, is hosting teams in Germany this season. The Ukrainian league continues at home without fans. Shakhtar had to embark on a lengthy journey, taking nearly 10 hours in total, traveling by bus to Poland before boarding a flight to Hamburg. These games also serve as a test for Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion ahead of its role in hosting matches at the European Championship next year.
In the same group, Barcelona secured a convincing 5-0 victory against Royal Antwerp. Porto will host Barcelona on October 4 in their next game, while Shakhtar will visit Antwerp.