As one of the most overused yet still accurate clichés in football goes, it was a game of too halves at the National Olympic Stadium in Kyiv Tuesday night. Dynamo, seeking a return to the group stages of Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2009, were lethargic and lacking sharpness in the first half of their 1st leg, 3rd round UEFA Champions League qualifier against Feyenoord. But after going behind early in the second half, they turned up the pressure and began to dominate. Feyenoord were lucky to only give up two goals; Dynamo wasted plenty of opportunities and could easily have scored several more goals. But with a crucial away goal, the tie remains open ahead of the second leg in Rotterdam in a week’s time. Here’s how it all went down.
Yuri Syomin used a roughly 4-2-3-1 shape. Ideye Brown, top goalscorer of the Ukrainian Premier League with four goals in three matches, was the lone striker up top. He was supported by an attacking midfield trio of Yarmolenko, Ninković, and Kranjčar. Yarmolenko was given more or less a free role behind Ideye and often drifted to both wings and then cut inside. Ninković and Kranjčar were playing on the right and left flanks, respectively, although the latter also often found his way into the middle of the pitch. Veloso and Vukojević started in the midfield; Vukojević was generally slightly further back than the Portuguese international in a more holding role. The back four consisted of Popov, Mykhalyk, Betão, and Silva. Betão was in for the suspended Khacheridi. Maksym Koval started at goalkeeper. Winger and captain Oleh Husiev was surprisingly left on the bench, as was striker Arem Milevskiy, who was recovering from tonsilitis.
Dynamo struggled to assert themselves early on. Though they had more of the ball, they created very few opportunities. Their best chance of the opening 45 came after Feyenoord defender nearly defected Martins Indi nearly deflected a Yarmolenko cross into his own net. Erwin Mulder did very well to save. Dynamo did appear to take the lead in the 41st minute when Ideye laid the ball off to Yarmolenko, who beat Mulder on the near side. But Ideye was adjudged to have returned from an offside position when collecting Ninković’s pass and the goal was disallowed; the decision was a tight one, but it appeared that the linesman got it right.
On the other end, Dynamo’s sloppiness in the midfield led to several giveaways that turned into chances on the counter for the Dutch side. Right back Daryl Janmaat forced Koval into several saves from long range. The Dynamo keeper was on his game and did well to save a low shot from Sekou Cissé in the 23rd minute. Dynamo held a 60-40 edge in possession in the first half, but it was the visitors who created more chances.
Syomin Plays His Cards
At halftime Syomin took out the ineffective Kranjčar for the experienced winger Ihor Husiev. Husiev took his favored position on the right flank, moving Ninković to the left. But just three minutes after half time Feyenoord took the lead. Right back Danilo Silva drifted out of position and allowed Lex Immers to sweep in a cross unopposed into the 18 yard box, where it was met by Ruben Schaken. The srtiker, surrounded by defenders, confidently beat the outstretched Koval to make it 1-0.
Syomin responded by taking off holding midfielder Vukojević for the not-fully-fit striker Milevskiy. With the move, Dynamo moved to a formation resembling a 4-1-3-2.
This was a gamble on Syomin’s part. Veloso was left as the only holding midfielder and moved further back to shield the back four, leaving a bigger gap between the two banks of midfielders for Feyenoord to exploit. But despite the inherent risk in taking off a defensive midfielder for a striker, the gamble paid off. Milevskiy played the role of a foil to Ideye Brown. He held the ball up well and took much of the attention off of the Nigerian, who was struggling to find space in a one-striker formation. Miguel Veloso was immense in the second half; he singlehandedly stopped several Feyenoord counterattacks in their tracks and contributed to Dynamo’s attacks with accurate long range passing.
Husiev’s addition was also a breath of fresh air. Unlike Kranjčar, who has yet to find a place in Syomin’s tactical set up, Husiev fit right in. He and Yarmolenko form an excellent partnership and have great mutual understanding; at Euro 2012 both started on the right flank and often linked up during Ukraine’s attacks. Ninković also seemed far more comfortable on the left flank.
Much like in last Friday’s match against Hoverla in the Ukrainian Premier League, Dynamo responded to going behind by immediately upping the intensity. The equalizer had far more to do with a stroke of fortune than any tactical changes Syomin made; a Miguel Veloso free kick in the 56th minute was punched by Mulder into the back of Lex Immers and ricocheted into the back of the net. 1-1 But for the remainder of the game Dynamo completely and utterly dominated their Dutch visitors. The go-ahead goal came in the 68th minute, when Ideye Brown headed a Husiev cross across the keeper and into the top corner. Brown, whose wife recently have birth to their second child, celebrated with the classic Bebeto ‘rock-the-baby’ celebration. Dynamo continued to pile on the pressure, and Brown had several more opportunities and nearly extended the lead in the 79th minute. After a quick one-two in the box with Milevskiy, he brilliantly beat his man and only the crossbar prevented him from scoring his second of the match. He would later be denied on several occasions by Mulder, who was Feyenoord’s man of the match. Husiev and Veloso both also had their chances, but VMulder was equal to all of them. 2-1 at full time.
It’s difficult to draw conclusions from this performance. On the one hand, Dynamo’s uninspiring first half performance shows that Syomin still has a lot of work to do to determine his best starting eleven. On the other hand, the fantastic response following Feyenoord’s goal show that this team have the tools to go farther in this competition. Ideye Brown has had an unbelievable start to the season and has now scored the game winner in all four of Dynamo’s matches so far. Veloso, Yarmolenko, and Husiev were all stellar, although some questions must be asked of the defense. It’s been an odd start to the season for Dynamo; four victories out of four, but the displays have been unconvincing as a whole. Syomin has his work cut out of him, but the Russian manager has plenty to work with. Dynamo remain favorites to go through, but Feyenoord’s away goal will make things tricky in Holland.