Shakhtar draw with Metalist 1925 as football returns to Ukraine

New league season began at Kyiv’s empty Olympic Stadium on Tuesday

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Shakhtar Donetsk and Metalist 1925 played out a 0-0 draw in Kyiv’s empty Olympic Stadium on Tuesday as competitive football returned to war-torn Ukraine with the start of the country’s new Premier League season.

The opening matches of the campaign have been timed to coincide with Ukraine's Day of the National Flag following Russia’s February invasion that brought a premature end to last season’s championship.

It was a first competitive fixture in nine months for both teams and, while there were obvious signs of rust, they provided an entertaining contest in which Shakhtar came closest to winning when Mykhailo Mudryk struck the crossbar.

The game was, at least, not interrupted by air-raid sirens, still a daily occurrence.

So tenuous is the situation that only certain venues with bomb shelters will be used for UPL games. No fans are allowed into the stadium, with fixtures mostly centred around Kyiv for now.

The return of the 16-team local league provides a distraction for 90 minutes away from the ongoing war.

"This is our job, and we perceive it as a very big responsibility to show the world that life in Ukraine does not stop but continues," Shakhtar’s Croatian coach Igor Jovicevic said ahead of Tuesday’s game.

"Football is one of the factors that gives emotions to the whole country and people who fight for all of us. This is very important for us, not only Shakhtar but also for the entire UPL, to continue life."

Shakhtar qualified automatically for the group stages of this season's Champions League, having been top of the table when the 2021-22 UPL campaign was suspended.

They now await Thursday’s draw and will play their home games in Poland.

Updated: August 23, 2022, 12:39 PM
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