Shakhtar Donetsk continued their dominance over fierce rivals Dynamo Kyiv and emerged victorious in a heated Ukrainian derby in front of a sellout crowd at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium. For Shakhtar, this match was little more than a matter of pride. Coming into the match they had accumulated an incredible 63 out of a possible 66 points, and their fourth successive UPL title is all but a mathematical certainty. For Dynamo, however, the tie had serious implications in the battle for the final Champions League spot and the financial benefits that come with qualification for Europe’s elite club competition.
Dynamo Kyiv, who had already been beaten twice by Shakhtar this season including an embarrassing defeat in the Ukrainian Cup, got off to the better start and looked determined to restore a measure of parity to the recently one-sided rivalry. They were rewarded for their energetic start in the 10th minute. Oleh Husyev’s low cross deflected off Vyasheslav’s Shevchuk and fell straight into the path of Andriy Yarmolenko, who made no mistake from close range to give the hosts the lead. As is usually the case between the two sides, the match quickly took a turn for the violent and both Yarmolenko and Dynamo’s Danilo Silva were lucky to escape straight red cards for needlessly harsh challenges. As the first half went on Shakhtar began to adapt to Dynamo’s relentless pressure and created opportunities of their own. They were rewarded for their efforts in the 44th minute when Shakhtar’s Armenian starlet Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s shot from inside the box was deflected into his own net by Danilo Silva. Dynamo were furious that the referee did not let the injured Andriy Yarmolenko back onto the pitch earlier, leaving them with ten men at the time the goal was scored.
Shakhtar continued to press for the go-ahead goal in the second half but were extremely lucky to not find themselves behind in the 54th minute. Oleksandr Kucher’s giveaway deep in his own end led to a clear goalscoring opportunity for Ideye Brown, but the Nigerian striker hit the crossbar from close range with the goal gaping. Dynamo would come to rue that missed chance, as Mkhitaryan finished off a fine attacking move in the 75th minute to give the visitors the lead. Shakhtar went down to 10 men in stoppage time following Yaroslav Rakitskiy’s second yellow, but Dynamo were unable to equalize. Another derby, and yet another win for Shakhtar, whose superiority in the UPL is unquestionable.
While the derby meant little for Shakhtar in the standings, their victory allowed Metalist Kharkiv to leapfrog Dynamo into the all important second spot. Metalist were in third at the start of the weekend, but following their 1-0 home victory over Volyn Lutsk they are now two points clear of Dynamo in second. Cleiton Xavier gave the hosts the lead in the first minute of play and they never relinquished the advantage despite the sending off of their captain José Sosa in the 81st minute. Volyn have now lost three of their last fourth and are mired in a tie for 12th spot, although they are safe from the drop zone.
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, the other team in the hunt for Champions League football, fell to a shock home defeat to Vorskla Poltava and as a result are now four points back of Metalist. Just three weeks ago Dnipro looked like favorites to clinch second spot, but after a dismal run of form in which they have picked up just one point in their last three matches against what seemed to be very beatable opposition they now look set on a return to the Europa League. Vorskla took the lead in the 21st minute courtesy of an own goal from Ondřej Mazuch. Artem Hromov doubled their advantage in the 83rd, and although Dnipro halved the deficit in stoppage time they were unable to claw their way back into the match. Needless to say, Juande Ramos will be very disappointed with the result and must get his team back on track for next week’s tricky away fixture at Chornomorets. Vorskla’s impressive victory means that they are now on 24 points for the season, good enough for a share of 12th place.
In Friday’s only fixture Zorya Luhansk and Chornomorets Odessa played out a 1-1 draw. Chornomorets took the lead in the 12th minute via Pablo Fontanello, but Dmytro Khomchenovskiy equalized for the hosts on 34 minutes. Chornomorets, who occupy the last Europa League spot in 5th place, saw their lead over 6th place Metalurh Donetsk diminished following the latter’s 4-0 demolition of Karpaty Lviv. A few weeks ago it seemed that the Odessa side had all but secured their ticket to continental competition, but Metalurh have been gradually chipping away at their advantage and are now just four points behind. The meeting between the two sides during week 29, the penultimate fixture of the season, may yet prove decisive in the race for Europe.
At the tail end of the table, Metalurh Zaporizhya picked up points for just the fifth time this season in a 0-0 stalemate with Arsenal Kyiv, although they remain without a single victory and with just five points from 23 matches are certain to be relegated. Hoverla Uzhhorod, also favorites for relegation, won a match for the third time this season, a surprising 2-0 victory away over Tavriya Simferopol. Hoverla are now on 15 points and 8 points from safety. Whether this is the beginning of a great escape or simply a false dawn remains to be seen.
In the only other match of the round Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih defeated Illichivets Mariupol 1-0 on the road and overtook their opponents in the standings. Both sides remain vaguely in the hunt for European football; Kryvbas, with 32 points, are five points away from a Europa League place, while Illichivets are now two points behind on 30 points.
Zorya Luhansk 1-1 Chornomorets Odessa
Illichivets Mariupol 0-1 Kryvbas Kryviy Rih
Metalurh Zaporizhya 0-0 Arsenal Kyiv
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1-2 Vorskla Poltava
Metalist Kharkiv 1-0 Volyn Lutsh
Metalurh Donetsk 4-0 Karpaty Lviv
Tavriya Simferopol 0-2 Hoverla Uzhhorod
Dynamo Kyiv 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk