Another eventful week in the world of Ukrainian football has passed by and it’s not over just yet with Matchday 28 still to come.

The biggest news from the past seven days was that of Shakhtar lifting their fourth consecutive UPL title and their thirteenth in total last Saturday. Their 3-2 win over Oleksandriya sees them wrap up proceedings with 5 games left to go. Liverpool-esque, albeit the Merseyside club won their title by an even greater gulf in points and games to play! With the silverware now officially secured, the main intrigue continues to focus on the teams below The Miners and their struggles for the remaining two medal places.

In this secondary battle for second and third place; things began to space out a bit more. Dynamo maintained their 3 point lead over Zorya thanks to a crazy game versus Kolos. Referee Serhiy Boyko came under huge scrutiny after the game had FIVE penalty shouts. Following VAR reviews, four of those were given. Two were given to each side. Kolos missed one of theirs whilst the other three were converted.

However controversy ensued as to whether Dynamo’s winner was actually a penalty in the first place when Yefremov was adjudged to have pulled Carlos De Pena down with a fingertip pull of his shirt – when it looked more like a slip on the heavily rained on Olympiyskyi pitch! All three points went to Dynamo in truly fortunate circumstances.

In the other game, Desna met with Zorya. The visitors were the better side on the evening, not allowing Chernihiv too many chances to attack. The scoreline was a lot narrower than the actual events of the game which saw Zorya miss a whole load of chances. However they prevailed in the end to give themselves momentary breathing room in bronze. This could all change once again this weekend as Zorya face Shakhtar and Dynamo travel north to Chernihiv!

Elsewhere in the league, Lviv parted ways with their Armenian manager Yegishe Melikyan on Sunday after three straight defeats since the return from lockdown. He was replaced by a South Caucasus neighbour – Giorgi Tsitsadze and his Georgian backroom staff who will be in charge for this weekend’s Lviv Derby versus Karpaty!

The fateful defeat for Melikyan was a 3-0 drubbing by Mariupol. Whilst Vorskla pulled off a surprise 2-0 victory against high fliers Dnipro-1. Both Ukrainian Cup Semi Finalists preparing positively for their game that would take place in midweek. 

Karpaty’s return to action following self quarantine and their Covid troubles was ironically pushed back by yet another week. This time it was their opponents Olimpik Donetsk who had some positive cases in their squad meaning that the game had to be postponed. Just the four games in hand for Karpaty at the minute.

Another substantial headline came from the Ukrainian Cup Semi Final between Mariupol and Vorskla on Wednesday. After a rather subdued 90 minutes and extra time. The scores were level at one apiece. Goals from Horbunov for the hosts and a Kane penalty for the visitors ended up seeing the game run down to a shoot out. Here is where the managerial genius combined with on the pitch talent to send Vorskla into only the second ever cup final in their history!

16 year old Pavlo Isenko was brought on just before penalties commenced. It was the Ukraine youth international’s debut for the senior side and boy did he take the chance! Out of five penalties faced, he emphatically saved three to put Poltava through! Vorskla won the 3-2 thanks to Isenko’s saves and has instantly become a name to be remembered for the future! Poltava will now face Dynamo Kyiv in the Cup Final on July 8 in Kharkiv!

THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE

Championship Group = (CG) | Relegation Group = (RG)

SATURDAY

Karpaty v Lviv (15:00 BST / 17:00KYIV) (RG)

A Lviv Derby gets Matchday 28 underway this week! This fixture has been truly underwhelming over the past couple of seasons with low scoring games and draws being the common denominator when these two rivals meet. On the pitch it’s likely to be much of the same in that respect. 

Karpaty return to first team action for the first time in over 3 and a half months after their post lockdown restart was delayed due to their own covid outbreak across the majority of their playing and coaching personnel.

Not only have they been affected with illness but due to the season delays, they have lost a number of key players. Luxembourg internationals Tim Hall and Marvin Martins left during the proper lockdown whilst just this week key man Yehor Nazaryna returned back to Royal Antwerp in Belgium and on loan Olimpik forward Matar Dieye went back to his parent club.

Lviv had their own troubles this week, replacing their manager due to the poor restart they have faced. Whilst they are above their opponents by a fair few points in the table, should Karpaty pull some performances out in their games in hand – Lviv could find themselves at risk of relegation. 

This fixture will take place in Lutsk at Volyn’s stadium due to the high COVID numbers in Lviv. No Karpaty Ultras this time round will force sole focus on the events on the pitch… which won’t be too pretty. 0-0

Kolos Kovalivka v Oleksandriya (15:00 BST / 17:00 KYIV) (CG)

This game looks to be a bit of a dead rubber. Neither side has too much to play for as a result of their recent form in the Championship group. Kolos are mathematically unable to catch their opponents in the table with 5 games to go whilst it’s looking more and more unlikely that Oleksandriya have any chance of recreating a medal finish being nine points off the pace of third.

In essence it’s a glorified friendly with both teams wanting to restore some lost pride. Oleksandriya defeated Kolos 4-2 in the reverse fixture of this game back in March. Both sides put in good performances in their matchday 27 defeats, so it will be interesting to see if either can pounce on that and bring their losing streaks to an end. It’s a tough one to call. A draw would not be surprising . 1-1

Shakhtar Donetsk v Zorya Luhansk (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (CG)

The Champions will be coming out to a guard of honour for the remaining five games they have to play. Although whether the side that receives that applause will be full strength or experimental remains to seen.

Rumours are already circulating that the lesser used members of Luis Castro’s squad will be given more of a run out now the deed has been completed. As such The Miners play the role of Kingmakers or more accurately Princemakers as the season ticks down.

Depending on the starting XI chosen in the games versus medal contenders, will either directly benefit one over the others. Whether these sides will get equal treatment will be interesting. The likes of Tete and Konoplyanka are almost certainly going to get more minutes and that’s likely to start this weekend.

On the other hand Zorya have already beaten Shakhtar once this season, grabbing a 1-0 victory in the reverse of this Championship Group fixture just before lockdown was announced. As such they certainly have the ability to inflict some damage against their Donbas in exile neighbours.

A huge boost for Skripnyk’s men comes in the return of Bohdan Lednev who successfully served a one match ban for accumulated yellow cards. His chance creation and finishing ability will benefit his side who have been less than clinical infront goal in recent matches.

A big blow comes in defence with Yevhen Cheberko starting a one match ban of his own following a second yellow and red versus Desna. Abu Hanna is expected to start alongside Vernydub at the back as a result. This really could go either way but with more riding on a positive result for the visitors you’d expect them to narrowly do the double over the newly crowned Champions. 0-1

SUNDAY

Mariupol v Dnipro-1 (15:00 BST / 17:00KYIV) (RG)

Mariupol’s season seemingly came to an end on Wednesday as they went out the Ukrainian Cup to Vorskla. Despite this heartbreak, they sit just four points behind their visitors in the table who are in the prized final Europa League play off place. With Dnipro-1 picking up inconsistent results such as their defeat to Vorskla last time out, it’s not inconceivable that Mariupol could leapfrog them in the remaining games.

Victory for The Seagulls in this one will put them in good stead for the final run of games but it must be said that Dnipro-1 do possess some quality players in their squad and on paper at least should have enough to remain at the top of the mini league. Mariupol were unable to carve any real chances in their Cup Game and with them starting their first team in that game, the extra days of rest for Dnipro-1 may come in handy.

Dnipro-1 have already defeated their hosts twice in 2020 so far – so another victory would not be too surprising . 1-2

Vorskla Poltava v Olimpik Donetsk (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (RG)

Likely to still be high from their historic win in midweek, Vorskla will need to regain focus on the league albeit with not too much to play for. Their shock win over Dnipro-1 last week does provide food for thought and whether a late run could see them challenge for eighth but being eight points behind seventh seems a task too far.

Preparations over the next couple weeks will likely be more seen as warm up games for the Ukrainian Cup Final against Dynamo Kyiv. Olimpik on the other hand will be wanting to amass enough points to be safely out of relegation’s reach with Karpaty’s number of games in hand being kept in mind.

This fixture has all the hallmarks of a narrow win for the hosts who really have got into the groove of things recently. A Cup hangover is possible but when you’re up against the likes of Olimpik – Vorskla should have just enough.  1-0

Desna Chernihiv v Dynamo Kyiv (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (CG)

It’s the GAME OF THE WEEK. For a second matchday in a row Desna are involved as the medal race continues to tick down towards its great crescendo! Desna suffered a setback in their hopes for bronze after defeat to Zorya last week. The harsh reality was that Desna were second best in that game and were just unable to carve any serious chances – with Filippov having a quiet game.

Meanwhile Dynamo were equally poor in their match against Kolos and were seriously fortunate to get a win thanks to some controversial refereeing. Their performance had it not been for penalties was also well below par. No clear cut opportunities and flat build up play. Further still, had Kolos possessed a bit more quality in their own ranks, they would have beaten Dynamo.

As such, it’s a vital game for both of these sides. Both need wins. Desna need to remain within touching distance of Zorya and could even level with them should the latter lose to Shakhtar. Meanwhile Dynamo want to maintain their own cushioned position in silver, also keeping an eye on events in the Shakhtar game.

Viktor Tsyhankov is likely to start for the first time since lockdown having impressed since coming on from the bench on two occasions. Whilst for Desna, their game depends on Filippov being at his goalscoring best. Having already scored twice against Dynamo in three games so far this season he is more than capable of adding to that. The last time these two met, it ended in a draw and it wouldn’t be too outlandish if that were to happen again. 1-1

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