THE UKRAINIAN FOOTBALL ROUND UP:

It has been quite the eventful week in Ukrainian football!

We have seen defeats, sackings, new manager appointments and that was only at Dynamo Kyiv!

The talk of Ukrainian football for the past fortnight has regarded Oleksandr Khatskevich and how much further the Belarusian coach could go with his Dynamo side before being axed. First up, he lost the away leg of the UCL qualifying tie versus Club Brugge. This was followed by another embarrassing defeat to Shakhtar at home in the league and concluded with a 3-3 draw to Brugge, which saw Dynamo fail to qualify for the UCL group stages for the third consecutive season; a new record!

Dynamo’s 2-1 defeat to Shakhtar showcased the glaring issues that faced the side once again. The defence was exposed on numerous occasions and a lack of organisation allowed Shakhtar to literally walk through it. Marlos obliged, dribbled past a number of players in the box before his deflected shot ended up being what was the eventual winner. Dynamo showed a few signs of promise up front, with Gerson Rodrigues getting his debut goal on his first home start. However, this did come about from a Pyatov fumble and as such the goal should not allow fans to get carried away just yet. Junior Moraes’ opener (it had to be him) was a well worked move down the right, with Solomon’s low cross to the front post forcing Moraes to attempt an audacious back heel flick which initially made it 1-0.

Khatskevich continued to remain coy despite this defeat. He decided to go slightly bold with his line up in the Brugge game. It was a wet Tuesday in Kyiv and many were pleasantly surprised with the way the team was set out. It was just a shame that they weren’t given any conclusive instructions to truly take it to the Belgians. Dynamo got off to the best possible start when Buyalskyi smashed in to level the tie on aggregate. This came in the fifth minute and the rest of the first half consisted of Dynamo trying but failing to penetrate Mignolet’s goal. It was evident that Dynamo were the better side but out of nowhere; a set piece was sent into the Dynamo box and Burda having lost his man, meant that Brugge got their away goal with their first attempt on target.

Dynamo came out in the second looking motivated for a change, knowing that they were still very much in this tie. They once again scored early into the half with a well worked move between Verbic and Shepelev resulting in the latter finishing at close range. Dynamo continued to press before Khatskevich decided to take off Verbic, Dynamo’s brightest attacking spark on the night, for Artem Besiedin. The fans in the stadium and on social media were visibly outraged at such a decision. 

Burda’s night went from bad to worse as he received a senseless second yellow with eight minutes to go. Khatskevich was now throwing the kitchen sink at Brugge in sheer desperation. He brought on Sol for Shepelev meaning Dynamo had 3 strikers on the pitch and 2 wingers. Then Brugge had a man sent off. Back to even men on the pitch, Dynamo’s top heavy front line meant they were completely exposed in midfield and Vormer benefited from the acres of space to slot in an equaliser and as good as killing the game off for Dynamo.

There was still time for Dynamo to go ahead once more in injury time thanks to an own goal from a corner, but it was just too little too late. With the side pushing for the goal in the depths of injury time, the side was dispossessed allowing Openda to run through one on one with Boyko and ensure Brugge went home without a defeat. Not that this would affected the end result, Dynamo were dropping back into the Europa League group stages for the third consecutive season.

By lunchtime the next day, Khatskevich and all of his staff, including Shatskikh and Luzhny were relieved of their duties just two months into a new two year deal they had signed in June. Fans were in jubilation across social media. The atmosphere was so celebratory that it felt like Dynamo had won a title in some spheres.

Rumours began circulating that Dynamo might finally appoint a foreign manager who has no ties to the former Soviet Union. However, the rumours of the likes of Hitzfield and even closer to home; Vernydub, were short lived. A few hours after the dismissal news came through, it began to surface that another manager with a ‘Dynamo heart’ was now the clear favourite to pick up the job. None of other than former Dynamo, Sampdoria and Rangers man, Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko would be returning for a second spell in charge after his first stint came to an end with a sacking back in 2004. Optimism quickly turned to deflation as Dynamo fans brace themselves for more of the same with Mykhaylychenko at the helm.

Elsewhere in Ukrainian football, Mariupol prepared for their Europa League second leg tie with a 1-1 draw away to Karpaty. The Lviv side picked up their first point of the season in what was a largely drab affair. Kornienko, a U20 World Cup winner made his debut for the visiting side and impressed at full back. After the game Mariupol stayed in Lviv for a bit of extra training, kindly allowed to use Karpaty’s facilities, before embarking on their trip to the Netherlands. 

Mariupol, having drawn their first leg with AZ 0-0, had every chance of making the next round as long as they were able to get themselves a goal. Due to a roof collapsing at Alkmaar’s stadium, the game was instead played at The Hague. Mariupol’s lack of firepower upfront, with Fomin missing was obvious to see. The Azov side crashed out of Europe with nothing as much as a whimper as they were trounced 4-0 on the night. 

Zorya were the other Ukrainian side in European action this week. They prepared for their vital game with CSKA Sofia, by inflicting defeat on Kolos Kovalivka. Zorya looked rather shaky during the first half, being rather prone to counter attacks from the hosts and had it not been for a lack in end product from the village team, then Zorya could have been truly punished. Fortunately, they were able to gain a grasp of the game with Lednev’s thirty-yard free kick opening the score line. Kolos then equalised, which sent the home fans wild. However, their levelling of the game was short lived. Zorya scored on either side of half time and this ultimately ended up killing the game. Nazariy Rusyn, on loan from Dynamo was pivotal in the victory, scoring and assisting in what was his first start for the club.

Zorya’s performance was far from optimal but it got the job done. The statement can very much be applied to their second leg tie v CSKA Sofia in the Europa League. Luhansk were lucky to not concede a penalty early into the game, in the ensuing counter attack, Sofia had a man sent off. This meant that for a good 60 minutes, Zorya had a man advantage. They did not make the most of it and for large parts were actually against the wall with CSKA pressing for an equaliser on aggregate. At the very death, in the 89thminute, once CSKA were well and truly fatigued, was Rusyn allowed to skip past a few defenders before slotting it calmly into the net to secure a UEL Play Off tie with Espanyol. Unfortunately, Rusyn will miss the first leg due to a second yellow he received in the celebrations following his goal. Already booked, the forward still decided to take his shirt off for a goal that in the grand scheme of things wasn’t even the ‘winner’ in the tie. Now Zorya have an even tougher task ahead of them next week!

Meanwhile, Vorskla pulled off a shock last weekend, as they not only won on the day but also scored 3 (THREE in ONE game) goals in the process! Sehic, who got himself a brace looks to have finally broken ground after a mediocre start since joining the division in January. 

Bruno Duarte finally broke his goal duct for Lviv after a number of barren months. This would also be his last for club as the striker joined Vitoria Guimaraes on Friday. Despite the defeat against Poltava and the loss of Duarte; the side will take positives from the game despite the most devastating of last minute losses. China got the other goal for the Lviv side, who came from behind twice. However, it was Vasin who had the last laugh as he powered in a 96th minute penalty past Sarnavsky to get Vorskla’s season truly underway!

However, defensive issues still remain and despite the valiant display versus Lviv, it should still be taken into account that it required a last minute penalty to secure all of the points. With another two goals conceded, it showcases that Vorskla’s defence is certainly not what it used to be and that the veterans within it are getting on. A higher calibre of opposition forwards (Lviv’s aren’t that bad to note) and a pummelling can be expected.

Dnipro-1 were surprisingly beaten at home by Desna. The much hyped youthful forward line did threaten but ultimately a lack of clinical finishing cost them. Past, in the Desna net was in inspired form and Fillipov, has come back into limelight with a few goals so far this season. His smart finish got Desna a second consecutive victory for the visitors.

In the remaining UPL game, Oleksandriya picked up their first points of the season by beating a sorry Olimpik Donetsk side. Oleksandriya opened the scoring thanks to Shendryk, before Matar Dieye got the equaliser and his UPL account open for the season. Just a minute after Vantukh was sent off for Olimpik, did Bezborodko get his debut goal for Oleksandriya in emphatic fashion. Robin Van Persie style, the forward turned on the half volley to power the finish past the hapless keeper. The game ended 2-1 and will bring a bit of confidence to Oleksandriya as they try and push for some of their form from last season. 

PREDICTION TIME

SATURDAY

VORSKLA POLTAVA V DNIPRO-1

Vorskla will be buoyed by their first win of the season last week as they welcome a flagging Dnipro-1. Having put in a determined shift and fought until the very death versus Lviv, Vorskla showed that they are capable of getting wins and are also capable of scoring goals; something they have shied away from for almost over 8 months. Sehic, looks to be in good form going into this and the addition of Luizao in midfield has helped energise a static midfield. 

Dnipro-1 may need to switch things up if they want to find out what their best line up is. The youthful nature of the side has begun to be exposed for its lack of experience. Whilst they continue to remain threatening, the end product has been lacking in recent games. Dnipro also have quite a problem at the back. It doesn’t look entirely organised and is getting found out by the opposition. This one could be more entertaining than it would have looked a few weeks ago! 1-1

DESNA CHERNIHIV V KOLOS KOVALIVKA

Desna have had a good start to the season. A poor result versus Lviv has since been forgotten about with two solid victories versus Vorskla and Dnipro-1. Kolos go into this one, having been brought back to Earth by Zorya last week. It will be interesting to see how many of their ‘fans’ travel for this one. Kolos’ honeymoon period of wins is over and as such the hard work begins. They will be out to prevent a second consecutive loss and the likes of Lysenko up front will be wanting to open their UPL accounts sooner rather than later. If they improve their final ball, then they could be a real threat against Desna in this one. However, expecting a narrow continuation from the home side. No second season syndrome here. 1-0

MARIUPOL V DYNAMO KYIV (POSTPONED)

This game has been postponed until a midweek in September. The thinking behind this was to assist both sides in their respective European qualifying campaigns and prevent a long travel day for Dynamo to the Azov coast. Funnily enough it seemed the players from sides preferred a weekend off rather than a season of top European football, as the teams crashed out of their primary aim competitions in midweek. P-P

SUNDAY

OLIMPIK DONETSK V KARPATY LVIV

Olimpik are still searching for their first point of the season. So far, their campaign is playing out exactly as many expected it to. Julio Cesar’s inexperience providing little in changing the fortunes around for the Donetsk club. One positive may be the fact that their star striker has finally broken his duct and hope that Matar Dieye can now press on to be as influential as he was last year. 

Karpaty got themselves a decent result against Mariupol. Having come from behind, it looks like Chyzhevskyi’s men are finally starting to bed in playing with each other after the close season’s big overhaul. Not everyone has made an impact just yet but it looks to positive that new signing Vojkovic got his first goal for the club. The defence still has some questions that need answering and that will be tested today against Olimpik, who are not shy of a few proven goal scorers. Something about this fixture screams to not favour Karpaty as they somehow always collapse unexpectedly. Olimpik to pick up their first win of the season but then return to normal next week.2-1

ZORYA LUHANSK V OLEKSANDRIYA

Zorya made a meal out of their Europa League tie in midweek. The man advantage was not taken seriously enough and it could have ended negatively had the quality of opposition been higher. They welcome Oleksandriya, who are fresh off their opening win of the campaign. With Bezborodko finding his shooting boots, it’s likely that he will become a pivotal part of the Oleksandriya attacking line. Tretyakov and Luchkevych have showcased signs of promise down the wings too and the new signings seem to be starting to gel in with the core of Sharan’s side. 

Zorya have their own inform forward in that of Nazariy Rusyn. He’s now scored two in two and as he will be missing his side’s Europa league tie in midweek, he will be motivated to at least apologise to the fans and team by putting a shift in during this match. Oleksandriya are extremely hard to break down and as such this game won’t be the highest of scoring. With Skripnyk’s Luhansk side yet to fully find their ‘playing style’ it will a hard fought slog to get a result in this one. A score draw wouldn’t be a surprise here.  1-1

FC LVIV V SHAKHTAR DONETSK

FC Lviv lost 10-0 on aggregate to Shakhtar last season over the course of 4 games. Shakhtar are expected to add to that tally today as they look to go 6 points ahead of Dynamo who are not playing this weekend. With Dynamo beating the home side  3-0 already this season, Shakhtar are certainly expected to match that as a bare minimum. Whilst the Champions League is not a distraction, the victories earned in this early part of the season may prove to be the fine margins as to who wins the league or not come next May. FC Lviv lost key man Bruno Duarte this week and as such will be expecting to see their other Brazilians take up the baton in his place. However, it’s not expected that the hosts will trouble the Donetsk side’s goal too much. A routine victory. 0-3

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