The UPL will break into two parts following the conclusion of Sunday’s fixtures this weekend where the top flight’s clubs will battle it out for two different prizes.
Relegation and ’The Best of the Rest Cup’ awaits for those finishing in the bottom half of the table whilst those in sixth and above have the privilege of fighting for a European place for next season with Shakhtar heavily favoured to pick up another domestic title!
UPL MD 21 ROUND UP
A rather rare midweek set of fixtures saw no fresh upsets akin to that of game-week 20.
Dynamo Kyiv got back onto their horse with a 2-0 win over Kolos, putting their capitulation to Dnipro-1 behind them. Viktor Tsyhankov’s return to the starting XI showed how important the young wide man is in terms of creating goalscoring chances and in converting some of those himself. His Yarmolenko-esque left footed rocket into the opposite top corner once again confirmed the quality the star man has.
However, barring his performance, Dynamo were extremely flat in the first half and were lucky not to go behind. A red card for Kolos just before half time ensured an easier second half for Kyiv with an instinctive finish from Sol in the first half adding to Tsyhankov’s stunner.
Kolos remained in sixth place BUT saw their lead cut down to ONE point with just a game to go!
Mariupol, their main rivals for the final Championship group spot hosted Vorskla, who fresh from their historic win over Shakhtar. The endorphins must have failed to replenish ahead of this one with Mariupol taking the Poltava team apart. It ended 3-0 on the day, with the game being marred by a number of dubious refereeing decisions.
VAR was not involved in this game – had it been it may have ruled out Topalov’s goal for an offside whilst a ghost foul on Slava Tankovskyi saw Ibrahim Kane given a yellow despite being at least 2 feet away from the player. Nonetheless, Mariupol now look to be in the strongest position to stroll into the ‘Fight for Europe’ group as they sit just one point behind Kolos and require just a point to overtake them due to having a better H2H record!
Desna survived a scare in Kyiv as they came back against a sturdy Olimpik Donetsk to win 2-1 and maintain their three point deficit against Dynamo Kyiv in third.
Dehtaryov opened the scoring for the Donetsk outfit, against the side he is on loan from before Filippov got his eleventh of the season to equalise for Chernihiv. Arlevadze then got his first goal since returning to his former club from Zorya during the winter to ensure all three points.
Zorya beat Lviv to leapfrog Dynamo back into the silver medal spot. Luhansk got a 2-0 win thanks to their two men on hot form – Kabaev grabbed himself a second goal in 2 games whilst Lednev scored another free kick. Although despite conceding twice, the hero of the game was Lviv keeper Sarnavskyi, who ended up saving two penalties; one from Hromov and another from Lednev.
Shakhtar got back to winning ways and started a new ‘unbeaten’ run for themselves with a more assured and recognisable performance against Dnipro-1.
The first teamers returned and swept Dnipro-1 away inside 25 minutes as they went 4-0 up thanks to goals from Kryvstov, Moraes, Konoplyanka and Taison. Surpyaha ensured he got a consolation late on from the spot but the result means Dnipro-1 will spend the remainder of their debut UPL season in the relegation group.
Oleksandriya closed the midweek set of games with an assured 3 points overly a sorry Karpaty. Volodymyr Sharan’s men were were unforgiving and won 4-0 on the night. A brace from Tretyakov and further finishes from Sitalo and Banada means Oleksandriya remain just two points behind Desna and five off of the bronze medal place. Karpaty remain five points clear of safety.
UPL MD 22 PREVIEW:
Vorskla Poltava v Olimpik Donetsk
Vorskla look to regain some momentum in their battle to escape the drop and move further away from the automatic spot as they play their direct table rivals Olimpik. Olimpik are currently holders of the worst form in the league and do not seem to be showing too much on the pitch that would suggest this is misrepresentative.
In front of a home crowd, Vorskla are likely to be more motivated in this one, taking advantage of the fact that they are technically starting their relegation group fixtures a match early. This has all the hallmarks of a goalless draw regardless of the recent uplift in goals by Poltava. 0-0
Desna Chernihiv v Zorya Luhansk
This is the tie of the round! Fourth place Desna take on second place Zorya. The latter is keen to keep their 2020 winning momentum going whilst solidifying their silver medal berth. On the other hand, Desna equally need to win to ensure the gap between themselves and their rivals doesn’t enter unassailable territory.
Both have impressed defensively and in attack – with goalscoring being at a highly impressive standard across the two squads. Filippov for the hosts has been in electric form whilst Lednev for Luhansk sits level with his opponent on 11 goals each. This will be an exciting game and neither will go down without throwing the kitchen sink – so goals look to be guaranteed. 2-2
Oleksandriya v Dynamo Kyiv
Oleksandriya will feel reassured that they got back to winning ways in midweek after a difficult start to the year. Albeit a 4-0 victory over Karpaty doesn’t say too much about the real quality of a side at the moment, it will give confidence back to the players. Games with Dynamo are always tight affairs, narrow victories for the visitors has been the norm on the past couple of occasions whilst the hosts picked up a famous victory over the White blues last season.
With Tsyhankov back, Dynamo have that extra bit of quality in their ranks that on many an occasion can end up being the game changer. But elsewhere in the side, Dynamo look far from robust and stable, traits still lingering from Khatskevich that Mykhaylychenko doesn’t look to be shaking off either.
Rusyn just doesn’t look like he fits in with the way this side plays; without structure when in attack and lack of passing combinations and rhythm. However, if he is given another starting chance, he needs to start taking it – as he is yet to score since his return to the parent club.
This game looks like it will once again be won or lost by the finest of margins. Low scoring with a lot of defending on display – aimed at breaking up the rhythm of play. The question is, who will end up being better on the counter. They will be the ones who end up winning this game. 0-1
Lviv v Karpaty Lviv
It’s the Lviv Derby! No love lost from the fans in this one as the Karpaty Ultras will undoubtably make their opinions known on what they think of their city’s other club. The usual excitement and entertainment during this derby takes place off the field in the stands. Toilet paper and pyro are the unmistakable ingredients for the atmosphere but once you take a look at what is actually happening on the pitch you see a more depressing state of affairs.
Since Lviv returned to the UPL, they have enjoyed the more favourable results, drawing twice against their rivals and even getting a 1-0 victory at the Stadion Ukraina last season. Lviv are similarly in a better state right now as well. They are seven points ahead of their neighbours and have played some alright football since the turn of the year. Their new signings look to be settling in well too.
Karpaty, on the other hand have also added a number of good signings on paper to their roster during the window, but unlike Lviv, they’ve been unable to find a way of gelling and even find a way to string some passing together.
The defending has been atrocious and that’s why their average goals conceded sits at just under 2 goals a game. It is difficult to see what Roman Sanzhar will be able to do in the coming months – with relegation looking more likely by the week. This won’t be the most engrossing or attractive footballing affair. 0-0
Kolos Kovalivka v Shakhtar Donetsk
This is a must win game for Kolos and it comes against their hardest possible opponent. Sitting just a point ahead of Mariupol, they know that a victory is the only thing that can guarantee them a top six place, without needing to rely on Dnipro-1 to take points off of the Seagulls. Kolos were rather poor against Dynamo in midweek and as such the confidence for them to pull off any kind of upset here is unlikely.
After resting a large amount of first team starters in last weekend’s game, Luis Castro will be looking to secure another quick and easy win for this side in the blueprint of their win over Dnipro-1. It could get all too overwhelming for the village side against Ukraine’s most elite side.
The reverse fixture saw The Miners storm to a 6-0 win. Kolos will have some stringent home support from the stands at the Obolon but it seems unlikely that they will be able to quell this rampant Shakhtar side. Ultimately, it looks like the relegation group may be beckoning for Kovalivka. 0-3
Dnipro-1 v Mariupol
Mariupol are in pole position to take a top six spot with the fixture list very much in their favour. They visit Dnipro-1, who had their relegation group fate confirmed on Wednesday, aiming for at least a point to see them through into the Championship group.
The main question rides on how motivated Dnipro-1 will be after their result in midweek. If they pull out anything close to their performance against Dynamo, then Mariupol will be in trouble. However, it is expected that Mariupol will take advantage of the path that Shakhtar have given them in beating both of their league rivals in consecutive games in order for them to re-enter the ‘Elite’ group.
VAR is in action during this game and as such you would expect certain dubious decisions that may have been unaccounted for will be brought to the referee’s attention and made amends for. Mariupol won the reverse fixture of this tie 1-0 so it looks ever so favourable that they will do enough to overtake Kolos in the standings at the very death. 1-2