UKRAINIAN FOOTBALL ROUND UP:

What a week it has been in Ukrainian football!

The return to domestic football after the international break brought us some serious shocks.

Oleksandriya got us underway with a convincing 2-0 victory at home to Dnipro-1. They warmed up nicely ahead of their Europa League debut against Wolfsburg. Dovhiy and Sitalo got the goals before the team travelled to Germany. However, it wasn’t as plain sailing ‘on the continent’ as Wolfsburg scored a freak long ranger that bounced and caught Pankiv off guard. Then former Dynamo man, Mehmedi scores a beautiful lob to make it 2-0 to the hosts.

Banada briefly got the side back in it; heading in a long range ball in from a free kick. Wolfsburg almost immediately killed off the comeback a minute later and the game ended 3-1. The hardest game is out of the way now and Oleksandriya should take positives that they kept the scoreline relatively tight. The rest of the group stage awaits.

Shakhtar then entertained Zorya in one of the games of the season! Zorya went 2-0 up thanks to goals from Yurchenko and a Pyatov pass howler let Kocherhin angle a goal (just) into the empty net. Taison got a goal backjust before half time which kept the Miners in it.

The second half began with Yevhen Konoplyanka coming on for the ineffective Tete. Marlos then pulled it back before Moraes got his first goal of the night to pull Shakhtar ahead for the first time. Lednev levelled it once more for Zorya on the 85th minute and it looked like it was ending all square. Then in the 89th minute, Konoplyanka made one of this trademarks runs to the byline and passed it along the line to the open Moraes to get the winner. 4-3 full time.

Taison got seriously injured in this one, as Ismaily’s knee impacted the back of Taison’s head causing the latter to have a mini seizure on the pitch. He was unable to continue and was brought off. However post match, he seemed fine and was talking to people in the mixed zone. He returned to training on the Tuesday with a Petr Cech like headguard on and started against Man City.

His inclusion didn’t help much as the side lost 3-0 to Oleksandr Zinchenko’s visitors. The less said about the performance the better as Castro’s men showed little and were rather porous at the back. The UPL may be a walk in the park but it was a baptism of fire in the UCL!

Karpaty then welcomed Vorskla to Lviv in Roman Sanzhar’s first game in charge. The Lions went behind in the first half but rallied back in the second thanks to goals from Ponde and Martins.

The Luxembourgish duo of Martins and Hall look to be quite shrewd acquisitions and the team are looking like they could be on the up with their new manager in charge. Time will tell but the initial viewpoints or positive.

Sunday saw Mariupol meet Olimpik in Vicente Gomez’s debut game in charge of the Donetsk outfit. After the hosts took the lead, the visitors rallied back to level it before Politylo missed a penalty and prevented Olimpik from nothing their first three points of the season. It’s early days yet but the initial signs of the new coaching staff look like they could help the team leave the relegation zone at some point this season…

Then it was the turn of Dynamo Kyiv. Five winless games on the bounce was met with the Kyiv side facing the new second placed team in the table. Desna have been solid at the back so far this season and boasted the best defensive record. It was another strange line up as Besedin started for Dynamo. When you need to score goals, that’s not who you want up front.

Desna took the lead through Dynamo ‘reject’ Vladyslav Kalitvintsev, getting a sweet revenge against the side that rejected him. Then after the break and rather ironically it was Besiedin who equalised got Dynamo. However, the side was unable to hold it level. A move reminiscent of Shakhtar earlier in the season, led to Desna breaking down the right and pulling the ball back to the in form Fillipov in the middle. He was ready to unleash a cheeky backheel flick to fool Boyko once again this season. Dynamo tried to get back into it but it just wasn’t working for them. It ended 2-1 and Dynamo sat in 5th a good 13 points off top.

Crisis point was announced and rumours were circulating that if they failed to beat Malmo in the Europa League then the team would be fined some sort of discrepancy. The entirety of the Europa League game was a rather drab affair. It was slightly end to end in the first half but neither side was able to break the deadlock as both were incredibly wasteful in the final third.

The second half was much improved, with Dynamo playing more through the middle. However the biggest chances came from set piece deliveries but it was down to the Malmo keeper and non clinical finishes that prevented Dynamo from opening the deadlock.

Then in the 84th minute, Shepelev picked up the ball halfway through the Malmo half and put a beautiful ball into Buyalskyy who beat the last man and finished through the keeper. Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko broke down in tears in the dugout when the goal went in. A sigh of relief that the fine would likely not be applied.

A new dawn at Dynamo now? Who knows… but many are expecting the reaction from the players who dedicated the win to the coaching staff to buck up now and pull their socks up!

The final game of the weekend was match up between Kolos and Lviv. The game was a non event for most of the game as Volodymyr Mazyar’s first game in charge of Lviv ended up reinstating their defensive shape of last season. It was up to ‘manager’s son’ Denys Kostyshyn to come on as a sub and get the winner 3 minutes from time to wrap up all three points for the home side Kolos. They moved into fifth and dropped Dynamo into sixth…

PREDICTION TIME

Dnipro-1 v Karpaty Lviv

A Friday matchup gets us underway in Matchday 8 this weekend. Out of form Dnipro-1 host a resurgent Karpaty Lviv, who travel to Ukraine’s fourth most populous city buoyant after last week’s win against Vorskla.

Roman Sanzhar will be happy with the way his side fought back after going down and will now need to keep this in mind especially away from home. Mykhailenko’s mens’ form on the other hand has been similar to that of a yo-yo.

A victory against Kolos was thrown out the window with last week’s loss to Oleksandriya. There seems to be a real disconnect between the backline and the conceding of so many goals is looking to be detrimental.

This is going to be a closely run affair with Karpaty’s two Luxembourgish men of the moment needing to maintain their impressive form in recent games. There’s certainly going to be goals in this one. But it’s difficult to separate the sides as a result. 1-1

Lviv v Olimpik Donetsk

This fixture is an intriguing one. It’s a showdown between the UPL’s two bottom clubs. Both sides have new managers and neither has yet had the time to fully stamp their authority or style of play on their respective squads.

Volodymyr Mazyar’s Lviv we’re unlucky to come unstuck at the very end of the game against Kolos last week. It’s clear to see that the Ukrainian-Brazilian dynamic in the squad is a feasible model. They just need more consistency going forward, with none of the attackers yet to showcase anything similar to the likes of the departed Bruno Duarte.

Vicente Gomez’s side are in the opposite predicament. They have an abundance of talent up top. Matar Dieye being the standout performer in the team, but he has yet to get the ball rolling.

The main problem is that the side is discombobulated due to the sheer amount of summer signings that have been brought in. The chemistry is not right yet and with a team that is already on its third coach this season, a period of consistency and stability is going to be needed if the club are to leave the automatic relegation place. Former Ukraine U21 captain, Lukyanchuk, returns to his former club to shore up the defence but it’s still difficult to see them not shipping goals going forward.

It will still take a bit of convincing to say that Olimpik could revolutionise themselves under Gomez but likewise Lviv don’t show too much promise themselves.

The Brazilians will help to edge this one. Shakhtar 2.0 to nick it. 2-1

Zorya Luhansk v Mariupol

Zorya look to put their last minute loss to Shakhtar behind them as they go up against another Donbas team; Mariupol.

Zorya have shown real promise this season and the combination of youth and talent has so far worked well for the Luhansk side. They were cruelly denied a point against Shakhtar after leading and then coming back from behind all inside 85 minutes.

Lednev has turned into the main focal point of the team. He helps create a host of chances and is contributing to the goal scoring burden too. Rusyn also impressed after coming off the bench and will be expected to start against the Azov coast visitors.

Mariupol didn’t play all that well against Olimpik and there are obvious deficiencies in the squad that look to prevent this side from replicating another shock 4th place finish.

Zorya will be our for revenge after finishing 5th last time out, looking to restore some order to the UPL rankings.

Expecting a solid victory from the hosts, with the visitors showing glimpses but being outclassed by their higher calibre of youth talent across the park. 3-1

Desna Chernihiv v Shakhtar Donetsk

Now this the match up of the weekend!

The Dynamo slayers meet for the first time this season in a battle between second and first!

Despite Dynamo’s poor form of late, nobody was really that confident that Desna would be able to beat them on their home patch. They did that and with a bit of class as well. Their playing style is reminiscent of Oleksandriya’s run last season.

Strong defensively and rather limited in the goal department, but they still get the goals that count. It will be a real test to see whether they can keep a steamrolling Shakhtar out. However, judging from Shakhtar’s shaky defence of late, the goals may be more easy to come by.

Shakhtar on the other hand will be reeling from their ‘as good as’ no-show performance against City in midweek. Can Desna inject any kind of intrigue into the title race?

A full strength squad is expected from Shakhtar including Taison who started against City despite his head trauma. As much as every neutral would like this game to have a shock ending, it’s difficult to look beyond the visitors. Moraes and Marlos may have not done much against City, but the UPL is their playground. Expect a few goals in this one but not a total battering. 0-2

Vorskla Poltava v Dynamo Kyiv

This game suddenly got a lot more interesting than it before the European fixtures. Dynamo’s late win at home to Malmo stirred all the emotions but ultimately may catalyse the start of a more positive run after six winless games.

Dynamo didn’t actually play all that well against Malmo despite creating a whole host of chances. As usual they were wasteful in the final third and much of their attempts ended up being blocked or fizzled out entirely. Had Malmo been a better side, it may have been a different story.

Luckily for Dynamo, they face an indifferent Vorskla side who so far this season are just getting by. Their performances have been average at best with a few wins sprinkled here and there. They’re on a two game losing streak and there’s nothing to suggest that they could get a result against a now buoyant Dynamo.

The question will be whether Dynamo can build on their performance in midweek or whether they are going to revert back to the side that was defeated by Desna; Disorganised, lethargic and non clinical. Now the threat of a fine is off the line (or is it?) the players might relax. It’s an unpredictable time for Dynamo at the moment, but even so, Vorskla are nothing too special to worry about.

The narrowest of victories for the away team here. 0-1

Kolos Kovalivka v Oleksandriya

After their debut Europa League game gave Oleksandriya a small dose of reality and showcased the gulf in class between themselves and Europe’s elite, Sharan’s men travel to the Obolon Arena.

Despite their defeat, they won’t be feeling too disheartened. Whilst it was obvious that Wolfsburg were a better side; Oleksandriya didn’t capitulate and will take respite from that.

However, it will be the first chance to see whether Oleksandriya suffer from any kind of European hangover.

They face Kolos, who got their first win in a while last weekend. Ruslan Kostyshyn’s men will also be looking to build on this and take advantage of the strong home crowd that the Kolos hierarchy buses in from Kovalivka and surrounding villages.

Oleksandriya have looked rather good in the UPL of late and as such may cause a few problems for Kolos, especially if Kovalets is back in the starting line up.

Kolos still struggle for goals and as such this won’t be the highest of scoring. 0-1

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