Ukrainian Football Round Up
What’s new in the UPL then? Nothing much really. Shakhtar still lead by 13 points and don’t look like slipping.
They opened Matchday 15 with a 4-1 win over Lviv in Kharkiv last Friday before flying out to Manchester!
Here they faced Premier League Champions Man City and actually came away with a result! They made up for last year’s embarrassing showing, wherein they lost 6-0 with a 1-1 draw that could have even been turned into a win.
Manor Solomon came off the bench to score Shakhtar’s first ever goal in Manchester to send the Shakhtar fans into ecstasy. Had it not been for a few further missed chances, The Miners could have left The Etihad with all three points!
Oleksandriya then took on Zorya and beat them 1-0 to tighten up the medal places race before travelling to Lviv and preparing for their vital Europa League tie with Wolfsburg. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be for Oleksandriya this season.
They fought bravely and should have deserved a draw at least in this game (to keep their slim KO round Qualification chances alive) but alas a Weghorst penalty was enough for the German side to take three points and secure their own spot in next February’s Round of 32!
Dnipro-1 stepped up to beat bottom club Vorskla in very controversial fashion. A very soft penalty which resulted in a non involved Vorskla player dislocating his arm, gave Dnipro-1 all three points and inflicted Yuri Maximov a managerial debut defeat at the helm of Poltava. He has A LOT to do if he is to save and rebuild the club’s fortunes on the pitch!
Arni Vihjmalsson was the talk of the terraces at the Obolon Arena as high flying Desna visited Kolos. But the Icelandic forward was ready to help his new side upset the odds. He inevitably scored on his debut as the hosts ended up as 2-0 victors and keep themselves in the running for a post winter break Championship Group spot!
Roman Sanzhar then hosted his former side Olimpik at Stadion Ukraina. Despite taking an early lead, thanks to Nazaryna, who is in electric form at the moment; the Donetsk outfit as they have a habit of doing against Karpaty in recent times, turned the game on its head. They won 2-1 to leave Karpaty with even more to think about. Another relegation embattled rest of the season looks to be on the cards!
Finally, Dynamo stepped up to dispatch Mariupol in comfortable fashion and took advantage of the clubs around them capitulating to move into second again! They beat the Azov visitors 3-0!
If only the Europa League was as easy as the UPL… Dynamo flew to Malmo to face their Swedish counterparts in what was predicted to be a low scoring boring affair. It was quite the opposite.
This goalfest began with Dynamo conceding inside 5 minutes, then turning the game around to lead 2-1 at the break. The second half was a complete role reversal as Malmo looked more determined and hungry for the result. They equalised shortly after half time before Sydorchuk got a second yellow for dissent.
Verbic actually put 10 man Dynamo infront before Malmo equalised again. As the game looked to be settling for a draw, in the 6th minute of 6 added on, the retiring Marcus Rosenberg was allowed to run unmarked into the box to connect with a cross and send the Swedbank Arena into raptures.
For Dynamo, it’s more questions to be asked of the manager and now they MUST beat Lugano at the Olympiyskyi if they want to play European football in the new year!
Zorya Luhansk v Karpaty Lviv
After underwhelming against Oleksandriya last weekend and already losing their brief stint as silver medal placeholders, Zorya will be wanting to get back to winning ways.
Fortunately for them, they come up against one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
Karpaty lost at home once again after being unable to hold onto and build on their opener. They have one bright spark this season and that is former Dynamo youth player Egor Nazaryna who seems to be the only creative and goalscoring outlet in the side at the moment. If it wasn’t for him, Karpaty could be sitting even lower than they already are.
Zorya will be confident enough, especially with the game at the Slavutych of resining their tours against the league’s weaker sides. Nazariy Rusyn needs to start for the Dawn, showing Skrypnyk that his dynamic mix of pace and strength is more valuable than a duo of Hromov and Kabaev. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and trying to change up what was a successful and flourishing attack has not done Luhansk any favours.
Either way, they could start with any of their combinations up top and will still be expected to come away with all three points. One way traffic. 3-0
Lviv v Dnipro-1
Another Lviv side seriously struggling to string positive results together. It seems the only thing differentiating Lviv and bottom club Vorskla at the moment is that they were able to beat their relegation rivals, but then beyond that little much else.
Yet, despite the fact that Lviv kept Shakhtar at bay and even got back into their game against the leaders, the game ended 4-1. No real surprises there. It still beckons the question as to what Lviv offer the league. Their football is disjointed and their previously respectable defence has turned into a sieve.
On the other hand, the visitors have not been much better so far this season. They too beat Vorskla but made a meal out of it. Had it not been for a very dubious penalty decision, then three points would not have come.
Dnipro-1’s attacking threat has seemingly neutered itself, now relying on goals from midfield despite early promise when the campaign kicked off. The youngsters have faded away and the defence just seems to lack the quality to challenge for a top six place seriously.
Rather ironically, Dnipro-1 still stand a big chance of challenging for the final Championship group spot, sitting just three points off the pace. On paper they have the edge in terms of squad quality and as such should get this game over the line. It won’t be enjoyable and it certainly won’t be pretty. 0-1
Vorskla Poltava v Kolos Kovalivka
There’s only one name making the headlines ahead of this tie and it’s ARNI!
The Icelandic winger returned to the UPL in style last week and got the all important debut goal under his belt. Now he has hit the ground running, it would be expected of him to continue creating chances and rejuvenating a Kolos side that had been stagnating in form.
Yuri Maxymov’s first game in charge was markedly opposite. Not much changed in terms of playing style as his Vorskla side lost to Dnipro-1 (albeit unfairly). They looked slightly more organised at the back but that may have been more due to the fact that Dnipro-1 rarely threatened. Vorskla’s own attack was at is has been all season… impotent.
Chance creation and goals look like they will be steadily increasing for Kostyshyn’s Kovalivka. Lysenko looked sharp and games against lower opposition will be the main games to pick points up from. Kovalivka, whilst far from the setting the UPL alight are certainly a more structured and entertaining side than their opponents and should edge this one. Another misery compiler for Poltava fans. 0-2
Mariupol v Shakhtar Donetsk
The Donbas Derby (otherwise known as ‘the ‘unofficial’ sister club showdown). Shakhtar look to continue their latest UPL win streak as they return to their home oblast.
Buoyed by their sensational performance in midweek against Manchester City, a full strength Shakhtar should get a run out against a weakened Mariupol.
How many of Mariupol’s on loan Miner players are allowed to play against their parent club is something that will need to wait and see until the line ups are out. However it wouldn’t be surprising to see a large number sit out. Not that a full strength Mariupol would be a match for Shakhtar anyway.
There will be goals. It’s also impossible to see any other outcome than an away win. Shakhtar won the reverse fixture 5-1 back in August and not much has changed since then other than Shakhtar settling in further under Castro’s management. Is there potential for a European hangover… absolutely not! 4-0
Desna Chernihiv v Oleksandriya
These sides go into the tie level on points in the table! They sit just three points off of Dynamo in second! So this game presents both a chance to keep in touch with that silver medal place whilst also creating distance between a close rival!
Desna go into this game on the back of a surprise defeat to Kolos. Their opponents may have had ‘new player bounce’ but that’s still not an excuse for Desna’s rather tepid performance. Their intensity had dropped in this one and defence looked to be one step behind the play.
Luckily due to events around them, both clubs still have a chance of medal spots and look to be well on course for a Championship group finish.
Oleksandriya go into the match rather disappointed that their Europa League knockout dream is over. In what was a tight game against Wolfsburg, Oleksandriya looked the better side for most of the game. It will depend on whether confidence and concentration can be maintained for the remaining fixtures of the year!
There may be a chance for a Europa League hangover but with focus now reverting back to the league and cup; focus needs to be return immediately. Oleksandria also have a final game against Gent, which is more essential for the hosts to win (KAA G) over the Ukrainians.
Olimpik Donetsk v Dynamo Kyiv
To conclude this week’s action, a wounded Dynamo face Olimpik Donetsk at the Lobanovskyi. A home game away from home for the both sides.
Olimpik have seriously impressed and improved since Vicente Gomez arrived at the helm. The former Dynamo Kyiv coach, will be wanting to try and replicate Mykhaylcyhenko’s debut match in charge which saw Olimpik pick up their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw at the Olympiyskyi!
A lot has changed since then. Dynamo have continued to fall behind Shakhtar whilst shifting in between 5th and 2nd on an almost weekly basis.
Their loss in midweek to Malmo will also be a worrying point. Dynamo not only let a lead slip twice, they conceded 4 goals in the process. The usual lack of attacking potency and coherent counter attacking build up play was to blame.
It’s likely they will come back to the UPL this weekend, dust themselves down and get back to winning ways. Albeit the problems will just be papered over as is usually the case with European failures.
Rodrigues and Sol will be sat on the bench frustrated that they aren’t being given more chances when Besedin who keeps being rewarded with starts can’t seem to find the net either. Maybe it’s time for Mykhaylychenko to actually change the formation and implement a playing style?
Gomez’s Olimpik won’t be pushovers either so this should be an entertaining game with the underdogs likely to give it a real go. However, Dynamo to scrape by on this occasion. 1-2