UKRAINIAN FOOTBALL ROUND UP

What a past week it was in Ukrainian football. The UPL rumbled on whilst the European representatives secured draws across the board!

Desna kickstarted last week’s Matchday 13 with the narrowest of 1-0 victories against lowly Vorskla. They keep the pace up with Dynamo for another week!

Shakhtar were up next as they fielded an almost entire reserve team against Karpaty, as they rested players ahead of the UCL in midweek. It didn’t affect them though as they still managed to brush aside Karpaty 3-0. Strength in depth there!

Shakhtar then travelled to Zagreb to take on their first Dinamo of the week. It was a must not lot lose game as the two teams are the prime challengers for the sole ‘second place’ in the group. Shakhtar got off to a good start as they took an early lead before being pegged back inside the first half. Shakhtar were the better side for most of the second too until Dinamo had a man sent off. They were unable to make the man advantage count, before Marlos was shown his own marching orders.

Then in the final 10 minutes a load of chaos ensued. Zagreb went 3-1 up scoring their third in the 89th minute thanks to a Pyatov shocker. Into injury time and Moraes pulls one back with a minute and a half remaining. Up comes Pyatov for a free kick and within seconds he’s bundled over in the box. The referee blows his whistle, checks VAR and points to the spot. Youngster Tete steps up and converts to carry the second place battle on to another match-day.

Back to the UPL, Zorya faced Dnipro-1 at the Dnipro Arena. The hosts who were already on a losing streak had this continue as Skripnyk’s side secured another 4 goals in a game and left as 4-1 victors!

Oleksandriya don’t really have the player capital to be making wholesale changes ahead of a UEL game. They faced Mariupol on goalkeeper Yuri Pankiv’s birthday and won 3-1. Following this they readied themselves for the huge fixture against St Etienne in Lviv.

Arena Lviv was far from full on Thursday but the atmosphere created by the travelling Oleksandriya contingent and Lviv’s traditional high spirits ensured it was still rocking. The game didn’t get off to the best of starts as Pankiv gave away a penalty leading it to be 1-0 at half time. Oleksandriya thought they got back in it but their goal was adjudged to be offside. Shortly after this decision, St Etienne went up the other end and converted to make it 2-0… little did they know about the dangers of this scoreline. It was then time for a Volodymyr Sharan masterclass as he made some substitutions, with Bezborodko and Zaderaka coming on.

Bezborodko pulled one back in the 86th and the hosts continued to press until the final kick. Ruffier, then came out to the penalty spot to punch a ball, it fell to Zaderaka on the half volley outside the box who sublimely finished directly into the top corner. Cue pandemonium! Another superb showing by Oleksandriya and arguably the most exciting Ukrainian side in Europe this season!

Returning to the league, Dynamo were then up against the UPL’s bottom side. Lviv arrived in Kyiv already in low spirit and that was made even lower as the hosts won 4-0 on the night. Dynamo then packed their bags and headed for Copenhagen. In what was a battle for top spot, the game was rather underwhelming due to the way both sides play. It was very much a carbon copy of the reverse fixture a fortnight ago.

Copenhagen went 1-0 up inside five minutes. Tsyhankov continued a disappointing start to the season as he missed a penalty. Then former Copenhagen man, Verbic scores with a finish from outside the box. The group is delicately poised and looks it will go down to the wire to see who tops the group!

Finally, Matchday 13 came to an end as Olimpik recorded another impressive victory against Kolos, to move 2 points away from the top 6 places. They beat their hosts 2-1 on the night to continue a recent winning streak. It’s still early in the campaign but they look transformed under Gomez and a far cry from the side who were pointless and bottom of the league when he arrived!

PREDICTION TIME

Mariupol v Karpaty Lviv

These sides kickstart the weekend’s proceedings, off the back of both suffering defeats last week.

Neither defeat was either a surprise or unprecedented. They were facing Ukraine’s European grande after all, in Oleksandriya and Shakhtar.

However the fashion in which Karpaty lost, in particular, to a Shakhtar reserve side would have been even more demoralising. After almost beating Dynamo the week before, which would have been rather fortunate, it just showed the lack of cohesion in Roman Sanzhar’s side.

Mariupol on the other hand brought a recent impressive run of victories to an end but due to their unpredictable nature, and the fact that they’re playing at home, should put them in good stead to win this game.

As mentioned in previous previews, despite the fact that Mariupol play without an out and out forward due to injuries, they are still able to create chances and goals for that matter from their midfield and defence. Travelling to the South of the Donetsk Oblast seems to be a rather daunting tasks for UPL sides.

With Karpaty now comfortably reverting to their form of seasons’ past, it’s difficult to look beyond the hosts in getting a narrow win. 2-1

Desna Chernihiv v Dnipro-1

Desna are continuing to pursue and don’t look to be likely to slip up anytime soon. Sitting in 3rd with the second best defensive record in the league are Shakhtar, Ryabokon’s men continue to surprise.

Their narrow victory over Vorskla last week showcased the character of the team that has been ever present throughout their performances this season. It was a tight game, with limited chances but due to Chernihiv’s ability to produce goals from anywhere on the pitch; the defenders once again contributed at both ends to ensure three points were secured.

Top scorer Fillipov started on the bench after his comeback from injury last week, with him slowly being introduced back into the team after his understudies impressed in his absence. With Desna being up against a seriously out of form Dnipro-1, another win looks to be on the cards.

However as is always the case in the football and in the UPL in particular; all records must come to an end. The run of six defeats for Mykhailenko’s men who visit the Gagarin stadium may just get themselves a lucky break.

They have been able to get themselves a few goals in recent games despite losing and this should add at least some sort of silver lining that the squad can build upon. It’s the defence that leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Sitting a mere three points off of the bottom doesn’t leave room for many more losses.

Desna look comfortable favourites and should see out a win as they aim to move above Dynamo, knowing that their league rivals face Shakhtar (with every chance of dropping points in that one). 2-0

Lviv v Vorskla Poltava

It’s a huge six pointer in Lviv this weekend as the UPL’s two bottom clubs meet in a fixture that instantly presents the slightest bit of breathing space for the victor when it comes to the early relegation battle.

Both sides are on woeful losing streaks in the league. Vorskla have been on a steady decline since the start of the season with their serious lack of strengthening a depleted and ageing squad in the summer becoming seriously apparent.

A once reputable defence is no longer what it once was. Whilst the attacking problem has not been solved since the departure of (the not so prolific but scorer of some goals) Kulach back in January.

Lviv have also been in free fall since February last season. The achievement of finishing in the top six and playing in the Championship Group turned out to be a curse as a number of sides in the relegation group surpassed Lviv’s points.

Now they’re bottom, suffering second season syndrome with a Ukrainian-Brazilian hybrid squad that just isn’t effective. Strong defence and flair in front was the motto last season but with Duarte departing and defenders looking like shadows, it’s all gone downhill.

This game has the markings to be a shocker. That is despite the fact this game ended 3-2 in favour of Vorskla back in August. The teams have lost considerable morale and just do not possess the quality to provide much entertainment. Both sides desperate for a win can only signify one thing. 0-0

Zorya Luhansk v Kolos Kovalivka

Surely Zorya can’t score 4 goals in a game for the third week in a row?

Well on their current form, you wouldn’t put it past them and with their opposition in a natural and expected slump, it wouldn’t be too surprising either.

Zorya have looked like quite the side in recent weeks as October’s UPL Manager of the Month – Viktor Skripnyk and his young men look to be at the genesis of an abundance of collective talent. Bohdan Lednev, October’s UPL Player of the Month, has been the man of the moment scoring in three consecutive games and being the primary chance creator for his side. It could and should be argued that he is THE most inform player in the league.

The Dynamo loanee and his parent club teammate Rusyn were the standout players in this fixture earlier on in the season and they will likely be heavily involved once more.

Kolos on the other hand will need to cope without their one of their stars of the season so far, Denys Kostyshyn who limped off (with help) in last week’s defeat to Olimpik. He’s out for the season after having knee surgery in the week.

The devastating news won’t help Ruslan Kostyshyn’s side who already struggle in the final third. One less player to convert chances and another big player to add to the injury list could prove serious in the near future if performances don’t improve.

Nobody was expecting too much from Kolos this season and they’re still in with a chance of the top six but they are class below the top five. Zorya will look to record a fourth consecutive win if they can beat this week’s opposition. This should be another one way traffic type of match. 4-0

Shakhtar Donetsk v Dynamo Kyiv

This is undoubtedly the GAME OF THE WEEKEND!

It’s the fourth time these sides have met ALREADY this season and it will be the second occasion in the league.

Just under a fortnight ago, in Kyiv, Dynamo slayed their arch rivals in the Cup after a tightly contested battle on the pitch.

Dynamo dominated large periods of that game but were unable to convert anything from within the box from open play. Likewise, it was difficult to tell whether it was Dynamo playing well or Shakhtar being poor, as the visitors were well below their best.

At the end of the day it was a one off cup tie and as such showed where each side’s priorities really lay. Shakhtar comfortable with the league and want to push on in Europe; whilst Dynamo are desperate to end their current trophy-less period.

Now that this tie returns to its league setting, the tables and intensities may turn once again. Fans and media alike, commented on how the Dynamo performance in the Cup was their best in years, so the pressure is now on to try and actually beat Shakhtar in normal time.

Both sides come into this fixture on the eback of draws in Europe. Shakhtar’s was rather the more impressive but equally the final results showed that neither side is ready to give up easily. However, the fact that both were unable to win despite being the better sides in their matches could be cause for concern.

Junior Moraes is on a slight goalless streak. Marlos has not been his usual self recently and Pyatov has not covered himself in glory between the sticks. Similarly Dynamo have seen Tsyhankov fail to turn up in big games and continue to play strikers who can’t score goals…

If anything all this uncertainty and inconsistent form should ensure that this fixture lives up to its hype, even if it may be occurring way more often that people would like.

As the pinnacle of Ukrainian football, these two sides will certainly pick up a whole host of cards in a wild tempered game whilst getting some goals to match. To end all square. 1-1

Olimpik Donetsk v Oleksandriya

Two inform sides go head to head in the final fixture of the week before the UPL’s brief international break hiatus begins.

Ukraine’s debatably most impressive European representatives Oleksandriya may still be high off the back of their last minute draw against St Etienne on Thursday but Sharan won’t allow room for any complacency.

European hangovers are often mooted when it comes to the domestic fixture directly after a continental game but Oleksandriya have not become victims to such a statement so far this season.

They’ve not lost one of their following UEL, UPL games; winning one and drawing two – including being the only side to have taken points off of Shakhtar so far this season!

They go into this game in confidence knowing that they’re able to perform at both ends of the pitch when it matters. Bezborodko is showing serious signals that he should become the starting forward with goals in his last two games and just looking a lot more lively than the more one dimensional and far from prolific Sitalo.

Olimpik are also enjoying a rich vein of form in recent times, with Gomez finally looking like he has worked out his best side and instilled the way he wants them to play. Importantly the Donetsk side have picked up important results against sides closest to them in the table and have excelled themselves to a serious chance of sixth place after spending a prolonged time at the bottom of the table earlier in the campaign.

Oleksandriya are well organised and as such may prevent Olimpik from playing their rather attack minded gameplan. Goals have been frequent in their previous fixtures but this could well be stumped by the visitors. Their positive does arise from varied goalscoring outlets in positions across the pitch.

The hard fought battle on Thursday may prevent energy levels from being at their highest level and with Olimpik no longer pushovers, this one would be pressing for a score draw. 1-1

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