Ukrainian Football Round Up:
The past week in Ukrainian football has been yet another rollercoaster! The Cup is usually quite a drab affair but it’s turning into quite the competition this year!
Mariupol got last week’s Matchday 12 kicked off beating Kolos at home. Albeit Kolos were not awarded what looked like a stonewall penalty due to a handball but the points ended up staying on the Azov coast regardless.
Mariupol continued their winning week in the Cup as they recorded another clean sheet and victory at home to march into the Quarter finals. Olimpik were the victims on this occasion as they lost 1-0 in the Donetsk Oblast derby!
Then it was Zorya’s go at turning on the spectacular as they demolished a sorry Vorskla 4-0. Rusyn scores a beautiful finesse shot straight into the top corner whilst Lednev was influential once again, assisting twice and getting on the scoresheet himself.
Then the Cup came along and Oleksandriya beckoned. Lednev once again scored a free kick but this time his contributions weren’t enough to prevent the game from going to penalties. It ended 1-1 AET before Oleksandriya came out as winners! That will come as a disappointment to Skripnyk’s young men as they looked like they could have gone on quite a run this season.
Desna then travelled to Lviv, to hand them revenge for their opening day defeat. Desna were without their top scorer Fillipov for this one but still managed to score four thanks to the back ups, Dehtaryov and Khlyobas putting a shift in during his absence. Ryabokon’s men look determined to stay in that Europa League spot this season! Lviv didn’t show up once again and remained bottom as a result!
Surprisingly Lviv were still in the Cup come midweek but that all changed rather quickly. Former Karpaty men, Kopolovets and Kobin, who coach FC Minaj had the last laugh as their Persha Liha side beat them 2-0. This was the last straw for the club’s hierarchy as they sacked Mazyar, already Lviv’s second coach of the season. Former Stal Kamianske manager, Egishe Melikyan replaces him.
Meanwhile Desna travelled to down south as they visited Mykolayiv. In what was a highly entertaining six goal thriller, a returning Fillipov got on the scoresheet as Desna rounded their R16 cup tie off with a 4-2 victory. Could they make the final this year?
Back to the UPL and Olimpik Donetsk keep on defying the odds. This time round, Dnipro-1 arrived in Kyiv and looked up for battle. Olimpik were resilient in their tactics, going behind early on and equalising. Then going ahead before being pegged back and then not letting heads drop, they secured the win by taking the lead for the final time. 3-2 was the final score and saw Olimpik move further away from the relegation zone!
As mentioned previously, Olimpik lost in their cup tie to Mariupol, whilst Dnipro-1 were embarrassed by last year’s second tier finalists, Inhulets who beat them 2-1! Is there a crisis a foot in Dnipro?
In the penultimate UPL game of Matchday 12; Dynamo faced Karpaty. It was expected that regardless of recent performances, the hosts would be far too strong for their currently struggling opponents. For 85 minutes this was largely the case, Dynamo threatened but were as usual unable to convert a host of chances in the final third. It was either a cross that didn’t reach its intended target or a chance squandered by the impressive Kudryk in goal!
Karpaty equalised through an unfortunate Shabanov own goal with five minutes to go and could have even won it in the final moments but it wasn’t meant to be. Another two points lost for Dynamo in the title race, in a week where Shakhtar also hit a hurdle!
Shakhtar faced a recently jubilant Oleksandriya, who were fresh from their impressive 1-1 draw with St Etienne. Neither side were able to carve out too many concrete chances but when they did , both keepers ensured the game ended goalless. Pankiv was impressive in particular and it would be good if he was able to get some minutes for the national team in the nearest break as a reward for his form in recent seasons!
The final Cup tie of the round climaxed in Kyiv as the Ukrainian Clasico played itself out for the third time this season.
Dynamo dominated the early exchanges and a Sydorchuk wonder strike from 30 yards out gave the Kyiv club an assertive one goal lead at the break. Dynamo continued to threaten in the second half but once again fell short of converting any chances in the box. The game was rather ill tempered as is expected from a big derby, with bookings being given out frequently.
Dynamo looked to be heading to the Quarter finals at the end of normal time with their clean sheet intact. However, after Shepelev was shown his marching orders for a second yellow, Shakhtar got themselves a corner. It bobbled in and around the box before coming to Stepanenko on the very edge. He made no mistake as he volleyed it past Bushchan in the 4th minute of added time.
Into Extra time and Stepanenko went from hero to zero as he got himself a customary second yellow and was shown the way to the changing rooms. Neither side let up in next thirty minutes but Dynamo were looking the more promising.
After some attacks down the flanks, Kyiv won a corner. It was swung in with power and U20 World Cup winner Denys Popov steamrolled through to connect a bullet header that left Pyatov with no chance!
Cue jubilation as the Dynamo academy graduate got his first ever senior goal and what a time it was to get it!
Many are saying that this result makes the cup competition even more intriguing now knowing that Shakhtar are out and that Dynamo are far from invincible. Maybe this is the season that an underdog finally gets to lift Ukraine’s second trophy!
Karpaty Lviv v Shakhtar Donetsk
Karpaty Lviv don’t have it easy when it comes to the fixture schedule. Neither do 9 of the other clubs in the league when it comes to the double header against the traditional top two. Dynamo last week, now Shakhtar!
Despite being rather average in Kyiv last week, a stroke of good fortune and Dynamo’s own inability to convert chances, helped Karpaty to a surprising point. Albeit, with the Dynamo’s season has unfurled so far, it wasn’t that much of a shock to the system. However, if Karpaty were to achieve anything other than a loss in this one, then people’s eyebrows would be well and truly raised.
Shakhtar have had their worst week of the season so far, having drawn a blank against Oleksandriya last time out and then narrowly succumbing to Dynamo in the Cup. Although the result was close, Shakhtar really didn’t turn up and it showed that maybe this ‘invincible’ persona in the league can be breached.
Regardless of recent results, it will be an uphill task for the hosts as it’s apparent that Shakhtar are a class or more above their opponents. Karpaty had a few minor chances against Dynamo but ultimately looked lacklustre in attack. They largely had goalkeeper Kudryk to thank for his 15 saves to keep them in it. If he can pull off a similar performance then who knows, but Shakhtar will be determined to make amends for their recent blip.
Last season, this tie ended 6-1 to the visitors. Whilst it’s difficult to see such an extreme scoreline again (although nothing is off the cards) Shakhtar will be looking to get out of their rut with some gust-eau.
Even without Konoplyanka, Marlos, Ismaily, Kryvstov and Pyatov, who have all not travelled, it’s difficult to see anything but a win for the league’s top side. 0-3
Vorskla Poltava v Desna Chernihiv
This is an interesting match up between two Ukrainian Cup Quarter Finalists.
Vorskla ended their awful winless streak in midweek thanks to the narrowest of victories against Kolos. This should give Kosovksyi’s men some respite after a terrible start to the season. However, Cup form often counts for nothing.
Desna come to town and they look to be back to peak form after a couple of defeats. They looked to be have slipped off in recent games before they reasserted themselves by taking revenge on Lviv. One thing this side seems to have is balance. The defence is hard working and disciplined and concedes goals minimally. Meanwhile, their attack is actually rather potent and regardless of the forward (s) that start they always seem to end up on the scoresheet!
Top scorer Fillipov returned from injury in midweek and scored on his comeback, whilst Khlyobas and Dehtaryov have kept Ryabokon thinking with goals in his absence.
They could pose a real threat to Vorskla regardless of who starts and it doesn’t look to be too pleasant of viewing for the hosts. They’re level on points at the bottom of the table and sit above Lviv on H2H record. So it’s already looking to be a make or break period in the season for the club. Yes a few victories will change everything like it has done for Olimpik, but it’s whether this ageing and uninspiring squad can string those victories together.
Desna look to be the outright favourites in this and they need to continue to pick up easier three points in games like these if they are aiming to maintain their challenge for third, if not second place in the table before the split in March! 0-2
Dnipro-1 v Zorya Luhansk
There’s an absolute abundance of youth talent on display in this fixture which should entitle it to the game of the round!
Dnipro-1 host this game in a state of free fall. Whilst this will be music to the ears of Dnipro fans, this isn’t great viewing for those monitoring the whizkids that many are tipping for future greatness currently playing for the club.
Buletsa has been off the boil since the end of August, Supryaha has been inconsistent whilst Nazarenko has failed to have too much of a glaring impact thus far. Kohut has chipped in with a few goals but even he has been undercooked. The defence is leaking goals aplenty and it looks like Mykhaylenko is struggling for solutions. The defeat to Olimpik last week would have been a killer blow for morale and it’s tough to see them matching their opponents as well as they did back in July.
Zorya come into this game looking impressive and dangerous. Skripnyk seems to have instilled the vision for his team rather well with all the players knowing their worth and pulling their weight. They will be disappointed with their penalty shoot out defeat to Oleksandriya in the cup but it shouldn’t dampen hopes too much.
Bohdan Lednev, is undoubtably the side’s main man at the moment, orchestrating attacks and chipping in goals on top. He proved this influence with a man of the match performance last week, assisting two and scoring a Messi like finish in the demolition of Vorskla. His link up play with Rusyn looks telepathic and bodes well for the future at Dynamo (both players are on loan from the club).
It wouldn’t be surprising to see both players contribute in this week’s game. It will be interesting to see whether Zorya can build a run up as they’re currently rather inconsistent with following up big results with another and another in a row.
Fortunately they’re coming up against Dnipro-1 so it may not be a better time to get a run going. 0-3
Oleksandriya v Mariupol
Oleksandriya ended Shakhtar’s 100% run last time round thanks to a resolute display from the defence and Yuri Pankiv in goal!
The result bodes well for the side as they look to replicate last season’s rise to third in the table. Even more so it showed that Europa League hangovers can be cured and that you can motivate your side to do it twice in one week.
With European football returning again on Thursday, Oleksandriya will be wanting to break their run of draws. Albeit all the results have been impressive including the Cup result with Zorya, but they need to start accumulating more points.
They face a recently resurgent Mariupol who have rediscovered their own abilities to control games and grind out wins (albeit in sometimes, controversial circumstances). They’re laying a big claim of securing another top six finish if they continue in such a manner. That being said, the sides Mariupol have beaten are those struggling and have been at home.
In terms of goals, this game doesn’t promise too much. Neither club have prolific forwards but they do find the odd goal on a consistent basis regardless of where that may come from on the pitch.
It’s a difficult one to call but this could easily end all level once again. 1-1
Dynamo Kyiv v Lviv
It has been another whirlwind week for Dynamo. Having drawn against a mediocre Karpaty last time out thanks to an own goal, expectations weren’t exactly high going into the cup tie Clasico. However, Dynamo did manage to turn it on against their arch rivals and left many questioning; why can’t they play like this every week?
This being said, Shakhtar looked considerably under par and slightly less motivated to get the job done whilst Dynamo were desperate to get themselves the win. This desperation and determination is something that seems to be have been missing from performances elsewhere.
Dynamo only drew 1-1 in normal time thanks to the conceding of a goal in added time. So once again the fact they don’t have a prolific goalscorer is a major negative in this current side.
Yes, they should still beat teams like Lviv with ease as midfielders can contribute to the goalscoring burden but it’s still a concern when it comes to the big games.
Lviv are bottom of the table and even lost to second tier Minaj in the Cup in midweek. This led to Volodymyr Mazyar, a mere couple of months into the job, to be sacked and replaced by his assistant, Egishe Melikyan!
The former Stal Kamianske coach doesn’t have that much experience when it comes to coaching senior sides and it will be a baptism of fire when it comes to Sunday at the Olympiyskyi.
Dynamo will have one eye on the Europa League but they will also be wary that they need to keep apace with Shakhtar. Lviv really are poor and even with a new manager bounce, Dynamo should have just about enough to get he victory. 2-0
Kolos Kovalivka v Olimpik Donetsk
The final game of the weekend sees a match up of diverging trajectories.
Kolos showed so much promise in the opening weeks of the season before plateauing and it seems they may be slowly moving towards a relegation battle.
Meanwhile the visitors are on the way up! Olimpik have finally clicked under new coach Gomez in recent games and have started to play more as a cohesive team. The goals have also returned. Whilst the defence still leaves a bit to be desired, the fact they still have the ability to outscore opponents shows they’re on the right path. Teixera has been on fire in recent games!
Kolos seem to be a prime candidate to be yet another scalp of Olimpik, having beaten fellow strugglers Dnipro-1 and Lviv in recent weeks.
Kolos just seemed to have lost all creativity when it comes to their attack of late and the fact that they also lack a striker doesn’t help matters. It won’t be the most entertaining of games but indications swing towards an away win.
However, as is with football, form can be rather inconsistent the lower down a table you go and Ruslan Kostyshyn will want to get back on track in front of a home crowd. A draw of any kind would not be surprising in this respect. 1-1