Vadim Furmanov –
Futbolgrad’s Ukrainian Premier League roundup from matchday 14 focuses on Karpaty Lviv, who have finally won a game in the Ukrainian Premier League.
It only took six months. On Saturday at the Arena Lviv, Karpaty finally recorded their first home victory since a 3-0 result over now-defunct Hoverla Uzhhorod in April. A first half header from Gustavo Blanco Leschuk, the club’s Argentine striker of Ukrainian heritage, was enough to secure a 1-0 victory over struggling Vorskla Poltava. In addition to bringing to an end Karpaty’s long winless run at home, it was their first victory since a 3-0 defeat of Stal Kamianske on the very first day of the season.
It has been a torrid season for Karpaty, a club that has been plagued by instability. Since the departure of Croatian manager Igor Jovićević in January, the position has become a revolving door at the club. Oleh Luzhny and Volodymyr Bezubyak jointly held the role through June in a setup that can only be described as unconventional, and subsequently Valeriy Yarmechenko and Anatoliy Chantsev lasted exactly a month in quick succession.
As early as the summer the Karpaty leadership had their sights set on the Belarusian manager Oleg Dulub, who has achieved unexpected success at unheralded Krumachky Minsk, but were unable to acquire his services. Instead they brought in Serhiy Zaytsev, fresh from a brief spell at Moldovan club FC Zaria Balti, whose tenure has been nothing short of disastrous.
Even before the season began Karpaty were at a massive disadvantage—they started with a six-point deduction due to unpaid debts to their former Bosnian midfielder Semir Stilić. The emphatic opening day victory was not a sign of things to come, as they only managed to pick up four points in their next twelve league fixtures, all from draws.
Zaytsev left the managerial role in early October, remaining at the club as sporting director, and Dulub officially joined, signing a five-year contract. His first result was a 1-1 home draw with Dnipro, which was followed by three successive defeats. One of these was a 2-1 loss to lower league side FC Poltava, knocking Karpaty out of the cup. After this latest disappointment the traveling Karpaty supporters made their feeling perfectly clear: “You don’t give a f*ck about us, but we do give a f*ck about Karpaty.”
Saturday was the first bright spot of a horrific campaign so far. It was, overall, a fairly confident performance, and one that lifts Karpaty up to 4 points—just one behind Dnipro, who have experienced their own fair share of difficulties.
It’s far too early to call this a turning point or the beginning of a revival. But as defender Denys Miroshnichenko put it, “the most important thing is that we have finally achieved this coveted and needed victory. We were able to please our supporters and we will do everything we can to continue in the same spirit.”
Results and Table after matchday 14
Ukrainian Premier League – Talking Points
- With a 2-1 defeat to Dynamo Kyiv, FC Dnipro equal their worst ever run without a victory in league competition: eight matches. The last time they failed to record a win for so long was in the Soviet Vysshaya Liga in 1978 and in Ukrainian Top League (as the Premier League was then known) in 1998.
- Attendance remains abysmal. There were an average of 2,453 people at each match in the last round, the second lowest total so far this season. The average for the entire season is now just 4,731, a figure that is 5.5% than the average for all of last season. If this pace continues, this will be the most poorly attended season in Ukrainian history.
- “Yes, in the beginning of the championship our goal was to avoid relegation from the Premier League. But based on the fact that we were able to move up to the middle of the table, we do not want to surrender our position—instead we want to improve it,” said Olimpik Donetsk manager Roman Sanzhar following his side’s 2-1 away victory over Zirka. Olimpik are now in fourth place and are emerging as a surprise contender for a European spot.
- Shakhtar Donetsk equaled their own record by scoring in their 34th straight Premier League fixture in their 2-1 victory over Oleksandriya. The streak began on August 28 of last year. The Miners maintain their 8 point advantage at the top of the table and remain undefeated in the league.
Vadim Furmanov is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He is also a Chicago Fire season ticket holder and a member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.