Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shakhtar Donetsk advances to UEFA Cup final after defeating Dynamo Kyiv

The great battle between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup semi-finals has been hailed by many as a step of mainstream acceptance of the extraordinary level of football in the Ukraine. In historic competitions it is difficult to say there are "winners" and "losers" but instead the entire sporting community wins. That aside with Dynamo Kyiv running away with the domestic championship, Shakhtar Donetsk pulled off the upset many thought as inconceivable and now advance to the finals against Werder Bremen on 20 May.

With pride and honour on the line, it should come to no surprise the deciding goal came down to the final minute of competition. After Fernandinho's late leveler in Kyiv in the opening leg, Mircea Lucescu's side returned home with a firm advantage. After Dynamo threatened early Shakhtar opened the scoring seventeen minutes in as Darijo Srna's cross into the box wasn't cleared and Luiz Adriano provided Jádson the ball, who then drove the ball into the top corner. Chances were rare for Dynamo through the half but two minutes after the break Yuri Semin's men evened the match with their customary flourish. Ukraine internationals Artem Milevskiy and Oleksandr Aliyev linked up with the midfielder supplying the ball to Ismaël Bangoura who sent the ball over Shakhtar 'keeper Andriy Pyatov. Finally with a minute left Ilsinho received a long pass on the right and after circumventing Badr El Kaddouri and Ayila Yussuf he sent the ball into the far lower corner.

Gracious in defeat Dynamo's Yuri Semin said after the match:

"First of all I would like to congratulate Shakhtar on their victory and wish them good luck in the final. To my mind, it was an interesting and exciting match just as a UEFA Cup semi-final should be. We made two mistakes while Shakhtar made none. That is why we lost tonight. Everyone [from Dynamo] who was on the pitch today has something to reproach himself for. But there was nothing wrong with the level of commitment from my players. They prepared well and looked good physically, but we also have to remember that Shakhtar are a very strong side. It was a game of two equal rivals and we lost out."

Shakhtar Donetsk's Mircea Lucescu noted the historical importance of the victory:

"We achieved something great today. We are now a part of the history of European football. The fact we will play in Istanbul means so much for us. It was a tough game as Dynamo were at their best as well. Having drawn the first leg, tonight we tried to close down the space and managed to do it. We made just one mistake when, because of [Mykola] Ischenko's inexperience, we lost sight of Bangoura. The result is just and deserved. The level of football corresponded to the high status of a UEFA Cup semi-final. The fans were treated to both a show and a battle. We still have games to play against Dynamo [domestically] and that's good because they are always interesting and improve the level of the Ukrainian league. Both teams are quite young and I'm sure they will continue to perform well in Europe in the future."