Starting this week, Passive Offside will be posting a weekly roundup of all the action from the Ukrainian Premier League.
Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk both struggled but emerged with three points to stay at the top of the table, but the biggest news this week came off the pitch with Andriy Shevchenko’s sensational announcement that he is retiring and entering politics.
Usual Suspects Keep up the Pace
The third round kicked off with Friday night’s encounter between Dynamo Kyiv and Hoverla Uzhhorod at the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv, the site of the Euro 2012 final. Dynamo manager Yuri Syomin had Tuesday’s Champions League match with Feyenoord in mind when selecting his squad, which explains the omission of central defender Yevhen Khacheridi in favor of Betão. Though Dynamo have won both of their first two matches they were unconvincing displays and looked early on to take the match to the side from Transcarpathia. But despite early pressure, it was Hoverla who took the lead in the 20th minute. German international winger David Odonkor easily beat Kyiv defender Husiev on the flank and crossed for Oleksandr Kosyrin, who tapped into an open net. This development clearly angered the home side as they immediately pushed for an equalizer. After numerous spurned opportunities Husiev headed home a Miguel Veloso corner to tie the match at one apiece in the 30th.
Dynamo was in control for most of the second half, but were hampered by poor finishing. Niko Kranjčar stumbled in the box after an exchange with Andriy Yarmolenko and could not get the shot in the 57th. Yarmolenko himself then wasted a one-on-one chance soon after, and for a while it appeared as if the visitors could leave the capital with a point. But Dynamo were rescued by their star Nigerian striker Ideye Brown, who has scored the game winners in both of their first two matches. Hoverla keeper Oleksandr Nad’ did well to parry Yarmolenko’s effort in the 85th minute but was powerless as Brown headed the rebound past his outstretched arms. Ideye then made it 3-1 in stoppage time with a long range effort that Nad’ really should have done better to save. With the victory Dynamo moved up to the top of the table, but the display will do little to allay the concerns of Syomin ahead of Tuesday’s key Champions League clash.
Shakhtar Donetsk had struggles of their own in their match against Kryvbas of Kryvyi Rih. The hosts were on fine form, having won their first two matches comfortably with nine goals scored and just one conceded. Kryvbas also had a perfect six out of six points, but the three time defensing champions were the clear favorites on their home turf at the spectacular Donbass Arena. Before the match Shakhtar’s Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu was presented with a bouquet of roses from both Chairman Rinat Akhmetov and captain Darijo Srna for his 67th birthday. Lucescu could not have pleased with how his side started the match. Shakhtar went down to 10 men after just 16 minutes when Oleksandr Kucher was sent off following a last ditch tackle on Rinar Valeyev just outside the box. Despite the man advantage, the visitors seemed content to sit back and soak in the pressure while the hosts struggled to create opportunities.
Shakhtar got a break just minutes into the second half. Kryvbas captain Vitaliy Lysytskiy was given his marching orders following a second yellow, and parity was restored. Shortly afterwards Lucescue replaced the ineffective Adriano with Ukrainian striker Yevhen Seleznyov. Shakhtar began to dominate, and should have gone ahead through Seleznyov on two occasions. Kryvbas were then reduced to 10 men following Mladen Bartulović second yellow for an elbow on Tomáš Hübschman in the 63rd minute, and Shakhtar really began to pour on the pressure. Shakhtar got a goal correctly disallowed for offside in the 80th minute, and well into stoppage time Kryvbas were still hanging on despite relentless pressure. Shakhtar were rescued by Fernandinho in the 93rd minute, who got on the end of a Srna cross and beat the keeper on the far post. Shakhtar were made to sweat, but they emerged unscathed and at the top of the table.
Elsewhere, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk also managed to continue their perfect start with a 2-0 home victory over Metalurh Donetsk, leaving the visitors propping up the table with no points. Metalist Kharkiv, however, dropped their first points of the season to Metalurh Zaporizhya in 1-1 draw. Tavriya Simferopol registered their first points of the season with 1-0 victory on the road over Ilichivets Mariupol.
Without a doubt, the biggest football related news coming out of Ukraine this week came off the pitch. Andriy Shevchenko, the legendary Ukrainian striker who retired from international football after the Euros, confirmed that he was leaving the club scene as well on Friday. Shevchenko, who has been plagued by injuries recently and has gotten very little playing time at his club Dynamo, announced that he would be entering politics instead. The last time ‘Sheva’ ventured into the political scene, he was criticized for publicly supporting Viktor Yanukovych during the Orange Revolution. Shevchenko has entered the Ukraine – Forward! party led by Natalia Korolevska. Ukraine – Forward! is an opposition party, although Korolevska has been accused of working with Yanukovych in the past when her party was member of Yuliua Timoshenko’s opposition coalition.
For a more in depth analysis of Ukrainian politics and what Shevhcenko’s decision means, check out this blog post by the Wall Street Journal. Regardless of how Sheva’s political career pans out, he will forever be revered in his homeland for his legendary displays at both the club and national level. His record speaks for itself: all time leading goalscorer for the Ukrainian national team, Golden Ball winner, Champions League winner, two goals scored in the World Cup, and two goals scored at the European Championships. He will be missed on the field, without a doubt.
Dynamo Kyiv 3-1 Hoverla Uzhhorod
Ilichivets Mariupol 0-1 Tavriya Simferopol
Vorskla Poltava 3-1 Karpaty Lviv
Metalist Kharkiv 1-1 Metalurh Zaporizhya
Chornomorets Odesssa 0-2 Volyn Lutsk
Shakhtar 1-0 Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-0 Metalurh Donetsk
Zorya Luhansk 1-3 Arsenal Kyiv