A Taste of Europa
Ukraine Premier League giants and Europa League contenders FC Dnipro led Russian side Dynamo Moscow to their first loss of the new year. The match showed that Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev aren't the only formidable sides in Ukrainian football. Needless to say, Dynamo Moscow's performance has yet to mirror that of their famous 6-2 victory over the Ukrainian side in October 1991, when the Moscovites pummeled Dnipro 6-2, with striker Igor Kolyvanov scoring 5 goals. An interesting parallel, however, is that both today's game and the aforementioned match featured penalties. But Andrey Kobelev's saved penalty 12 years ago would only have been icing on the cake. It was Dnipro who had the penalty today after the official saw an invisible foul in the box. Today's Dynamo lacks a good goalkeeping duo, as Russian international Anton Shunin is nowhere near the skill level of veteran Roman Berezovsky. Shunin, who was in goal for the first half, failed to make the save on his 26th birthday, setting the boulder tumbling down the hill.
Dnipro were relentless, putting pressure on the Moscovites during both halves with no signs of holding back. Though the Ukrainian side didn't create too many chances themselves, they controlled the midfield and accumulated an array of set pieces. The official's whistle almost never left his lips during the first half - even the smallest infringement called for a free kick. Solomatin's early goal failed to sustain the Moscovites. Winger Balazs Dzsudzsak was Dynamo's Nani, pushing forward on the occasion but lacking the accuracy for an assist and the finishing touch necessary to score. Dnipro's few chances were far more dangerous - Brazilian midfielder Giuliano forced defender Fernandez to clear the ball from the goal line. The second half saw Dnipro captain and Ukraine international Rotan test Berezovsky's net. Dnipro manager Juande Ramos, who has previously managed Real Madrid and Tottenham, delayed rotating his team. Yet the second half newcomers included players who scored the last two goals, as well as the mighty 23-year-old winger Yevhen Konoplyanka. Dnipro's number 10 is a two-time Ukrainian Footballer of the Year, and won the EL Team of the Year award with Dnipro in 2012. He shone on the Euro 2012 in Ukraine's match against Sweden by assisting Andriy Shevchenko's game-winning goal from a corner kick, and he certainly shone in today's match. Konoplyanka easily picked up Dynamo's lousy passes, carried through attacks, and stormed the left flank with deliveries into the box. Dynamo tested the net just once, when Jakob Jantscher's one-on-one rendezvous past several defenders on the left ended in a narrow angle strike that hit the side netting. Soon enough, Dnipro's EL top-scorer Zozulya netted one in. Konoplyanka and Zozulya played out a combination that flew dangerously close to the crossbar, eager to widen the fresh 2-1 gap. The Ukrainian side scored again in added time when Igor Semshov's bad pass was taken up by Georgian midfielder Kobakhidze. The latter played the ball with Kravchenko before scoring Dnipro's 3rd and final goal.
Dnipro, whose last games in the EL were multi-goal wins against teams like Napoli and PSV, are set to face Basel at Dnipro Arena for the Round of 32 on February 14th.
Dan Petrescu's pre-season training seems to be heading in a positive direction. The players are definitely more fit and have consistently shown an eagerness on the pitch. 2013 began with mixed results for the Moscovites, who won 1-0 against Malaga's reserves, played a scoreless draw against Hungarian side Videoton, and lost to FC Dnipro. The UPL side was their must difficult opponent thus far and provided a true test for the Blue-and-Whites. If anything, the match exposed Dynamo's second Achilles' heel. Aside from the club's need for a young and skilled keeper, the players' passing and pace need plenty of work. Dynamo simply couldn't keep up with Dnipro, losing the ball tastelessly on more than one occasion. The team cracked under pressure, playing in a stressful frenzy. While the Costa del Sol Trophy is not too significant a prize, Dynamo came short of winning what would have been the team's first piece of silverware since the 1990's.
The Moscovites, who bowed out of the Europa League Qualifying playoff round at the start of last season, will leave Spain for a resort in Turkey, where they'll continue to play pre-season friendlies before the kick-off of the spring half of the 2012/13 Russian Premier League.
The English play-by-play action is available on Kyck.
International Club Friendly - Costa Del Sol Trophy 2013
Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:00AM (ET)
Dynamo Moscow vs FC Dnipro - 3:1 (1:1)
Venue: Marbella Football Center (Spain)
1:0 Pavel Solomatin (Asst. Marko Lomic) (3')
1:1 (PK) Yevhen Seleznyov (35')
1:2 Roman Zozulya (70')
1:3 Alexander Kobakhidze (90+1')