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Shakhtar find their form

Tuesday, 27 July 2004

By Khachik Chakhoyan in the Republican stadium

[1] FC Shakhtar Donetsk's hopes of ending a four-year absence from the UEFA Champions League group stage were boosted with a win at FC Pyunik in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie.

Marica scores

[2] The Armenian champions had eliminated FK Pobeda in the previous round, but fell behind to Mircea Lucescu's side on 31 minutes when 19-year-old Romanian striker Ciprian Marica scored his first European goal for Shakhtar. Igor Duljaj's accurate long pass set Marica free in the penalty area and he finished clinically from close range.

Nazaryan equaliser

[3] Four minutes into the second period, though, Rafayel Nazaryan levelled for Pyunik, who went out at this stage against PFC CSKA Sofia last season, after good work from Aghvan Mkrtchyan and Levon Pachajyan.

Late goals

[4] With 16 minutes left, substitute Andriy Vorobyey played the ball to Marica who outpaced Sargis Hovsepyan before striking his second goal of the match. Nigerian forward Julius Aghahowa, who had squandered several first-half chyances, then made amends with an 86th-minute header from Razvan Rat's free-kick to put his side firmly in control ahead of the return in Ukraine next week.

Lucescu satisfied

[5] "I am satisfied with the win," said Shakhtar coach Lucescu after the match. "We have taken a big step towards the next round. Pyunik had some spells of really good football, but we were the stronger and produced the needed result." His Pyunik counterpart Vardan Minasyan was more downbeat. "Our players were were a bit afraid of the other side. Shakhtar deserved to win," he said.

Mircea Lucescu's side secured a vital victory