Ukrainian Premier League
Metalist Kharkiv continues its great run in the UEFA Cup with 1-0 victory over Sampdoria. In his first official appearance for the Zhovto-Syni Ukraine U21 Denys Oliynyk scored two minutes into added time before the break to give the visitors the 1-0 lead. After Jajá’s effort near the mid-point of the half was saved by the Sampdoria goalkeeper, Kharkiv took the lead when Oleksandr Rykun’s cross the headed in by Oliynyk. Sampdoria came close to equalizing the match after the break, first with Paolo Sammarco volley hitting the crossbar at the hour and then Andrea Raggi missing a close range header with twenty minutes remaining but they couldn’t find the needed goal.
The return match is set for next Thursday with Myron Markevych’s club in a strong position to advance.
The long winter break is nearing completion but this week Dynamo, Metalist Kharkiv and Shakhtar Donetsk return with UEFA Cup matches.
Returning to training he emphasized the clubs preparation focused upon technical work as opposed to off-pitch “strength-training” that many English gravitate to:
“I don’t think we should try to adopt English style. We prefer to play our game. The match with Tottenham will be a real challenge. We shall pin our hopes on technical players. Quick combinations and penetrating passes will help us achieve result. We have watched some of our rivals’ games. They definitely have problems in their defence. I think we should play the way we can do it.”
Emphasizing the twelfth man he spoke of supporters:
“A lot will depend on support of our fans. I am sure they realise how important is their support.”
Răzvan Raţ echoed this sentiment saying:
“I’d like to appeal to our fans: come to the stadium, we badly need your support! This year Shakhtar are capable of reaching UEFA Cup final. This is my personal goal. I hope we shall have our fans’ support.”
Ukrainian international Serhiy Kravchenko new arrival put it best when discussing playing chances with Yuri Semin’s great club:
“Young and experienced alike have equal chances of making the starting XI. The atmosphere is really creative (with Dynamo Kyiv) and competition for places in the lineup is tough.”
While Dynamo hold a commanding six point lead, Metalist Kharkiv have added Andriy Berezovchuk from
Metalurh Donetsk, welcome back Ukraine U21 Denis Oleynik from Arsenal Kyiv and signed Walter Aníbal Acevedo in addition to building a strong core with the academy.
However Shakhtar Donetsk is ready for the challenge as Nery Castillo and Ruslan Fomin have returned from loan with something to prove. While the transfer season has seen a departure of Brandão to Olympique de Marseille they have been very encouraged by the play of Castillo and the development of academy product Yaroslav Rakitsky.
As reported last week, the deal to send Brandão from Shakhtar Donetsk to Olympique de Marseille of France’s Ligue 1 has been finalized. The terms of the agreement call for a reported €6m fee to Mircea Lucescu’s club.
Nikolay Kostov continues to strengthen Metalurh Donetsk for the second half of the year as he is on the verge of signing Serbian international Đorđe Lazić from FK Partizan. While the deal has yet to be formally announced, it is widely considered to be in the final stages of paper-work with the transfer cost of €500k. At twenty-five years of age Lazić is a midfielder is known for his attacking vision and creativity.
Although Shakhtar Donetsk does not return to domestic play till February 28 when they face FC Illychivets Mariupil, manager Mircea Lucescu has been very busy.
With Lique 1 club Olympique de Marseille negotiating a deal that would send Brandão to France, they have recalled three players from on-loan. Starting with two Ukraine U21 internationals, Ruslan Fomin returns from Metalist Kharkiv and Igor Korotetskiy comes back from Zorya Luhansk. In an interesting move the much traveled Mexican international Nery Alberto Castillo returns from a discouraging period with Manchester City in England and by all accounts is hopeful of a fresh start for Hirnyky.
Metalist Kharkiv continues to fortify its side as it has added Argentine midfielder Walter Acevedo from San Lorenzo of the Argentine Primera División. The twenty-two year-old midfielder has represented Argentina as a U17 and U20 and comes over on a year-long loan with an option to purchase at the conclusion of that term.
This is unlikely to be the final addition as manager Myron Markevych is very actively pursuing a number of other players, including striker Jérémy Perbet who is on-loan with Belgian First Division club AFC Tubize from RC Strasbourg.
Talks have begun that will see Shakhtar Donetsk veteran defender Mariusz Lewandowski move to Wigan of the English Premier League. Said to be in the £3.5m range, the Polish international has been a solidifying force with Hirnyky since 2001 and has attracted the interest of Wigan manager Steve Bruce.
With the draw complete and with three Ukrainian clubs in the action it will be quite an exciting time.
Shakhtar Donetsk is set to face Tottenham Hotspur with the winner to face the victor of the CSKA Moscow - Aston Villa series. Naturally this could lead to a stunning Shaktar Donetsk – CSKA Moscow battle no-one would want to miss. In the other two series Metalist Kharkiv will face Sampdoria with the winner to face Dynamo Kyiv – Valencia, resulting in obvious showdown of UPL clubs.
Metalist Kharkiv incredible run in the UEFA Cup completed with a 1-0 victory over Benfica at the Estadio da Luz. While each of Benfica attacking efforts ended in failure, with six minutes remaining on the clock Ukrainian internationals handling the task with perfection. With defenders collapsing on him Marko Dević fed Oleksandr Rykun a perfect set-up on the right, which he then jettisoned to the back of the net giving Zhovto-Syni the 1-0 victory.
The victory pushes Myron Markevych’s side to the top of Group B.