Vadim Furmanov –
Chornomorets Odesa have done what no other team have done this season in the Ukrainian Premier League, which is to defeat Shakhtar Donetsk. It’s been a strange season for Shakhtar Donetsk. The main objective for the Hornyaki this season was to unseat Dynamo and reclaim the Ukrainian Premier League title, which they virtually secured before the winter break. At present, Shakhtar have a fourteen point advantage over their closest challengers.
The massive gap between Shakhtar and Dynamo, however, has made the entire second half of the season feel like somewhat of an empty procession, a formality they must go through to officially claim their tenth title. The heartbreaking defeat to Celta Vigo in the Round of 32 of the Europa League sucked much of the enthusiasm out of the club.
Chornomorets prevent Shakhtar’s invincible season
Under such circumstances, one of the club’s remaining objectives was to finish the season undefeated. On Friday midfielder Viktor Kovalenko told the press “there are many games remaining that we want to win to become champions without having lost once.”
As it turned out, just one of those games was enough to derail Kovalenko’s plans. On Sunday afternoon in Kharkiv, Shakhtar took the lead against visitors Chornomorets Odesa through Bernard in the 27th minute of the match. Playing in what is their current home ground, the hosts carved through the visitors’ defense with ease and looked well on their way to another routine victory.
Chornomorets equalized just ten minutes later, with Oleksandr Andriyevskyi rocketing a long range volley past an outstretched Andriy Pyatov. It was the first goal Shakhtar conceded to Chornomorets at home in eight encounters. The visitors, needing points to stay in the race for European football, took the lead in midway through the second half. Newly acquired Brazilian forward Jorge Elias capped off a fine counterattacking move to record his first goal for the club, and Chornomorets did not relinquish the advantage.
The result hardly damages Shakhtar’s championship aspirations, but manager Paulo Fonseca nevertheless claimed that the result served as a warning, telling journalists “We have not achieved anything yet, we need to fight to the very end. I hope that the match will open the eyes of the players, and that they continue to fight with the same spirit.”
With the result, Chornomorets move within four points of the final Europa League spot, their ultimate objective. Next week’s clash with Oleksandriya, three points ahead of them in the race for Europe, may prove to be decisive.
Dynamo tighten grip on silver medal
One possible storyline coming into the second stage of the season was whether Zorya Luhansk would be able to challenge Dynamo for second place and the privilege of Champions League football that comes with the position. But two matches into this stage, Dynamo have emphatically staked their claim.
A 4-1 victory over Oleksandriya last week was followed with a 4-0 defeat of Olimpik on Sunday. Andriy Yarmolenko scored twice, and Artem Besedin and Denis Harmash added the other goals in a dominant display.
Meanwhile, Zorya were held to a 0-0 draw Oleksandyia and now fall eleven points behind Dynamo in the race for second. The gap was just six when the second stage commenced, but having gained only one point in two matches it is looking increasingly likely that Zorya will have to settle for Europa League football.
Karpaty closer to survival
Karpaty Lviv took a key step closer to survival following a 2-2 draw with Dnipro on Sunday. With Volyn losing their seventh match in a row and their manager Vitaliy Kvartsyanyi seemingly resigned to relegation, Karpaty and Dnipro are now locked in a battle to avoid relegation.
Even before the fixture Karpaty were buoyed by the news that Dnipro had incurred an additional three-point penalty due to unpaid debts to the Football Federation of Ukraine, and the draw meant that a six point gap remained between the two days. Dnipro are now staring down the face of a first ever relegation from an independent Ukrainian league – the club have not suffered a relegation since finishing bottom of the Soviet Top League in 1978.
Ukrainian Premier League Standings – Championship
Ukrainian Premier League – Relegation Zone
Ukrainian Premier League – Highlights
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.