A rare midweek Matchday is upon us! It’s an essential game week for the medal chasers in particular, who have just two more attempts at gaining further points to help boost their European ambitions.
Since the weekend, there hasn’t such a great abundance of news or happenings bar the results of MD 30.
It’s likely the most exciting finish to a season (title aside) since 2013/14 with three sides remaining in the run in for the elusive silver medal and more importantly a coveted seat at the UCL qualifying round table.
Zorya were first up on Saturday against Kolos. A dominating first half performance and a brace from Kocherhin was enough for Zorya to move clear of Dynamo and Desna early on. The second half was less than comfortable for Zorya, with Kolos showing how they are more than capable of matching their opponents when it comes to chances created and threats – but their finishing ultimately let them down. The Luhansk outfit rounded out the victory at 2-0 seeing them move into second on 57 points
Fresh from their Ukrainian Cup win, fatigue and misfortune combined to add more woe to Dynamo’s campaign. Two penalties defined the match. Firstly, young defender Syrota, starting his third game in a row for Dynamo and in total ever for the senior team began to struggle with the awkwardness and physicality of Oleksandriya’s forward Bezborodko.
An early yellow card followed by a poor challenge inside the penalty area all inside 20 minutes was enough for Mykhaylychenko to realise he had made a mistake. He instantly subbed him off for Burda as Dynamo went behind as Tretyakov converted from 9 yards.
A poor first half from Dynamo was attempted at being remedied in the second by bringing on Tsyhakov at half time. It instantly injected some energy and precision into the Dynamo right flank. However it wasn’t until Verbic, coming on at the 60 minute mark where things began to shift in Dynamo’s favour.
Two quick fire goals from Dynamo’s current man of the moment saw the Kyiv side almost home and dry – easing the pressure on them in the final matches. However, it wasn’t meant to be as this time it was Shabanov’s turn to give away an unnecessary foul in the box which felled Shastal. Tretyakov stepped up again and converted accordingly. Points shared with a team that had nothing to play for was certainly not in the Dynamo coaching staff’s playbook – nor is anything else for that matter… Dynamo sit on 56 points with Zorya up next!
The final Championship Group game was played simultaneously with the latter. Desna had a big chance to exploit a supposed weakened Shakhtar side missing the likes of Marlos and Moraes and maintain an advantage in the medal race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Shakhtar, once again demonstrated their squad depth, unmatched anywhere else in the league (Man City-esque) and went ahead inside 25 minutes thanks to two goals scored within a minute of each other.
Solomon cut in from the left and caught Past off guard with an unexpected drive at the goal. Before the Israeli teed up Tete to give Shakhtar the lead from two chances which came out of relatively nothing. Desna took little time of their own to peg Shakhtar back – when they scored from a corner – Hitchenko again involved! Then in the second half after some Desna pressure, a Shakhtar counter saw Maycon get a rare goal to all but take the game away from Chernihiv.
Desna responded in quick time once more, with Filippov unleashing an early finessed finish from all of 30 yards out, which Pyatov had not been expecting. Alan Patrick, then capped off an impressive and once again understated performance with a goal of his own to round off the scoring.
Desna did have chances to get back in it, but luckily for Shakhtar, their former forward Pylyp Budkivskyi had a goal gaping as Pyatov ran out of his box to contest a ball. Instead, Budkivskyi slipped, missed the opporutnity before trying an audacious chip from 45 yards out as Pyatov ran back to his goal. Typically it ended on the roof of the net. A 4-2 Shakhtar win left Desna on 45 points – at a natural disadvantage but just two points off of their goal.
It is all delicately poised for the two remaining matchdays now!
Elsewhere, the Relegation Group saw a couple of high scoring games themselves. Vladyslav Supryaha continued his goalscoring form as he notched a brace in Dnipro-1’s comeback win over Lviv were initially 2-0 up. Rennan’s brace helped Lviv to a comfortable advantage before the on loan Dynamo man levelled proceedings with his goals to take him two clear (9) of the total Dynamo Kyiv UPL goals the forwards have scored in 2020 (7). Khoblenko won it for Dnipro-1 as Lviv went to sleep for a second game in a row and were made to pay.
Meanwhile, the other fixture between Mariupol and Olimpik played out to bewildering scenes. Olimpik won which was a shock in itself but they also did it in style. 4-1 was the final score line even with Olimpik starting a weakened eleven.
Mariupol were woeful, including a howler from the keeper Halchyk – aiming to dribble it past an onrushing defender on his goal line. Only to be tackled with ease, have Dehtaryov convert and then have the majority of social media question whether your team threw the game following such suspicious behaviour from the Mariupol first choice keeper.
THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE
Championship Group = (CG) | Relegation Group = (RG)
Shakhtar have got two final competitive matches to see out before the end of the season. Markedly these two games will also be the last ones they will play before the UEL Round of 16 game versus Wolfsburg in early August. So warming up for that will be a priority.
Following on the trend from last week, Luis Castro has given some of his key men a week’s holiday – permitting Stepanenko, Pyatov and Kryvtsov to have a break following their integral part in the title triumph.
On the other hand, Marlos, Moraes and Matviyenko all return following their time away albeit it is expected their roles will remain limited to allow the fringe players more time on the pitch.
Mykhaylo Mudryk and U20 World Cup winner Danylo Sikan are expected to pick up some more minutes in the next two fixtures; ahead of potentially breakthrough years for the pair in 20/21. Kolos have been notoriously difficult to beat for Shakhtar this term but they have managed to do so-just each time! Likely to be another one of those. 1-0
Dnipro-1 v Karpaty Lviv (FORFEITED) (RG)
No Karpaty means no fixture fulfilment by them. As such Dnipro-1 get a midweek rest and free three nil victory to their record. 3-0
An absolute dead rubber. Both sides aren’t going anywhere this season but still seem to be putting shifts in on the pitch regardless of how defining their performances actually are at this point of the season. Olimpik surprisingly scored 4 goals against Mariupol in the last round.
Whilst Lviv have scored 2 goals in each of their last two games but have let leads slip in both. This fixture has been a tight one previously this season and it wouldn’t be a shock to see another tie where the two can’t be separated given the uninspiring circumstances. 0-0
Some were touting this game as a potential cup final of its own with the final Europa League Play Off tournament spot at stake. Going into this match, five points separate the two teams. Vorskla play their first game since the Cup final loss to Dynamo. Despite their brave and resolute performance in that game, it is fair to predict that the side stood up to the occasion for that silverware event. Whereas this match, returning to the league format may reassert the reasons as to why Vorskla sit ninth in the table at this stage anyway. They may have been reborn under Maksymov but there still remain some problematic areas in the side – none more so than consistent goalscoring and lapses in concentration at the back – preventing them from holding onto leads.
Mariupol themselves are a strange anomaly. Their 4-1 defeat to a half strength Olimpik calls into question, both match-fixing or just lack of motivation – despite them not being mathematically safe in the final UEL PO place. Nonetheless, a late Europa charge would probably be asking too much too soon from Vorskla after a momentous turn around already this season in staying up after a dismal start and playing some coherent football once again to match. Typical draw – as it panned out last time. 1-1
Desna may have felt slightly disheartened about their silver medal chances in the immediate aftermath, following their defeat to a weakened Shakhtar on the weekend. However, they are very much still in the race with two games to go. Should Desna defeat Oleksandriya at home, they will remain in a strong position to finish in a medal place with fellow silver medal pursuer Zorya to come in the UPL finale on Sunday.
Despite the 4-2 score line against Shakhtar, Desna were still able to display snippets as to why they remain (albeit unprecedently) in the hunt. They’re extremely dangerous from set pieces. With physical defenders, who like to cause a nuisance in the opposition’s box, there’s always someone able to get a free header away or finish off a scramble. Hitchenko has been particularly nascent in this area of late. Meanwhile, Filippov has also continued to be the most consistent forward in the side. Whilst he sometimes struggles to finish off the easier chances in games, he seems more comfortable finishing the more difficult ones; such as the early outside the box finish against Shakhtar.
Although they were eventually overrun by Shakhtar’s more energetic midfield, against the likes of Oleksandriya – who will be aiming to conserve energy ahead of the Europa League Play Off tournament next week – this fixture shouldn’t be too problematic going off how the season has played out so far. Win or bust for Desna. . 2-0
Another game of Cup Final proportions – this time it’s in the league. This fixture is of great significance to both sides as they meet at the Olympiyskyi on Thursday. A win for either would give them a serious foothold in the silver stakes and brand that victor the favourite to enter the UCL 3rd Q round following Sunday’s conclusion of the 19/20 campaign.
Dynamo sit a point behind Zorya going into this. The last time the sides met, a month ago, Dynamo came back from a goal down to inflict an impressive 3-1 defeat in Zaporizhya. In that game, it was the substitutes De Pena and Tsyhankov that changed the game for Dynamo and it’s expected after a number of experimental line ups for Dynamo of late due to injuries and resting; the strongest possible starting side will kick off. De Pena is expected to retain his spot on the left, with Tsyhankov coming in on the right from the ouset. Meanwhile Benjamin Verbic, who’s enjoying a rich vein or form playing as a centre forward is anticipated to stay there.
Syrota will revert back to the bench following his week of numerous baptisms of fire with either the now fit Burda deputising or Popov who is also expected to be back from injury. Unfortunately, for Dynamo fans, it’s difficult to see Mykhaylychenko offering anything other than his trusted midfield three of Sydorchuk, Shepelev and Buyalskyy; just because that’s the way the manager works. A shame as Shaparenko impressed against Oleksandriya.
As for Zorya, their on loan Dynamo men has different rules applied. Lednev has not featured in any of the previous three fixtures versus his parent club and as such it’s expected that that will continue. Meanwhile, Tymchyk who has started on the bench previously against his main club, is expected to start in a defensive capacity of some sort. Without Hromov in the team, Zorya looked a lot more fluid in attack – Perovic and Kabaev were linking well as a strike partnership – although they too need to improve their finishing if they are to emulate what Kabaev had with Rusyn before the New Year. Vladlen Yurchenko should not be understated either, he’s probably been the most consistent player in the Zorya side – enjoying his playmaker role as one of the more senior heads (26) in the youthful set up.
Dynamo certainly have a more bountiful squad which includes players that possess greater game changing quality than that of Zorya and as such when it’s needed most – Dynamo could pull out the win. It will all depend on how disciplined Zorya are and whether their midfield and defence can unpick the usually large holes in Dynamo’s midfield and pounce on the lack of match sharpness in Dynamo’s defenders to gain those coveted 3 points and move one step closer to that debut UCL appearance.
Too close to call but will certainly be an open and entertaining game at one point or another. 2-2