Metalist 3 – 2 Dynamo: Lost The Battle, Won The WarBy: Yevy | March 20th, 2009
Sometimes a loss is really a win, and a victory has the bitter aftertaste of a defeat. Metalist Kharkiv won the match, but it was Dynamo who celebrated on their pitch, having booked a spot in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup. Substitute Andriy Berezovchuk turned Milos Ninkovic’s cross into his own net to level the aggregate score late in the second half, and Dynamo held off their UPL rivals the rest of the way to advance on away goals. It was a fitting way to decide a match that did not distinguish itself with champagne football but more than made up for it with sheer tension and the unquestioned effort put in by both sides.
The conditions at Metalist Stadium were never going to allow Dynamo to play the one-touch passing game that is their hallmark. The pouring rain and a pitch that resembled a swamp more than a professional playing surface played into the hands of the hosts. With their 30,000 fans loudly behind them, Metalist started the match on the front foot. Without the services of suspended Ognjen Vukojevic Dynamo manager Yuri Semin started Badr El Kaddouri and Roman Eremenko in the center of midfield. Although the duo could not be faulted for their work rate, the presence of the Croatian destroyer was clearly missed. Ukraine internationals Serhiy Valyayev and Valentyn Slyusar took full advantage of Vukojevic’s absence, controlling the middle of the pitch and granting the hosts the bulk of early possession. Marko Devic kept popping up between Dynamo’s defense and midfield looking for a seam to sneak through, but Taras Mykhalyk and the choppy turf denied him anything resembling a scoring chance.
On the half hour the hosts got a set piece opportunity and took full advantage. Walter Acevedo’s service from the left reached the head of Slyusar, and with his back to goal the midfielder redirected the ball into the far corner with a neat flick. Dynamo’s hard-earned advantage was erased, and we had a brand new tie on our hands. The visitors looked for an immediate response, and Oleksandr Aliyev’s free kick from 30 meters out tested Oleksandr Goryainov, but the Metalist captain was able to parry the ball out of the top corner. From the ensuing corner Goran Sablic saw his header deflected wide, and on the subsequent attempt the veteran defender got his head on the ball once again but could not hit the target. Five minutes later Artem Milevskiy received Aliyev’s pass inside the Metalist area with his back to goal, and elegantly spun around on his marker Papa Gueye. But with the massive defender draped all over his back, Milevskiy pushed his shot just wide of the right post.
The pitch continued to play tricks on the players from both teams, with the ball unpredictably skidding along the wet grass and sometimes stopping dead when encountering a puddle. Dynamo went unpunished when Betao could not anticiapte the movement of the ball properly in his own area with Jaja Coelho lurking, but the striker could not get to the ball in time. Metalist looked to be running out of gas near the end of the half, falling asleep on defense and allowing Artem Kravets a shot from a sharp angle. Goryainov spilled the rebound, but there were no Dynamo players close enough to capitalize. Moments later the hosts gave the ball away in their own end gifting Kravets another chance, but the keeper was up to the task once again. Metalist manager Myron Markevych looked relieved to have his troops get to the locker room before making another blunder.
Dynamo started the second half like they ended the first, and Aliyev was desperately unlucky when his shot struck the post, rolling across the mouth of the goal but never crossing the line. With ten minutes played lightning struck for Metalist. Jaja won a free kick some 30 meters out, and stepped up to the ball himself. The Brazilian’s left-footed strike bent around the Dynamo wall, skipping off the turf and into the net past a helpless Stanyslav Bohush, and just like that the hosts were in front. Both sides made changes, with Ninkovic replacing Carlos Correa and Denys Oliynyk on for Devic. With Dynamo attacks not coming close in the next ten minutes, Semin sent on Oleh Husyev for Andriy Nesmachniy, with El Kaddouri shifting to left back. The move energized the offense in more ways than one, as the Moroccan defender injected some pace on Dynamo’s left flank that Nesmachniy sorely lacks. It was there that the visitors won a free kick, and Aliyev sent a telling cross into the box. Milevskiy looked certain to get on the end of it but managed just a slight touch, which was enough to freeze Goryainov and send the ball trickling across the face of the goal. Waiting at the back post Sablic did with his foot what he was unable to do with his head, and Dynamo was on the board. But their celebration was short lived. Literally on their next trip up field, Metalist won a throw, and Jonathan Maidana headed on the long toss towards the penalty spot. Valyaev was able to control it for the hosts and touch the ball on to Slyusar, who made no mistake from point blank range and put his side back in the driver seat with twenty minutes to go.
Markevych looked to bolster his tiring defense with some fresh legs, and Berezovchuk came on for Vitaliy Bordiyan. It was not long before he would be wearing the goat horns. After Dynamo foiled a Metalist counterattack, El Kaddouri played the ball into Milevskiy, who held off three defenders before finding the overlapping run of Ninkovic with a clever back heel pass. The Serbian midfielder burst to the touchline and cut the ball back across the six yard box, and in an effort to keep it from reaching the feet of Husyev Berezovchuk instead managed to deflect it into his own goal. As the Metalist defender collapsed in disbelief, Dynamo players mobbed Ninkovic and celebrated their good fortune.
Aliyev did not make any friends in Kharkiv on this day as he gloated over the fallen Berezovchuk, and later spent a lot of time down on the turf receiving treatment as Dynamo proceeded to kill off the final ten minutes. After the match Aliyev said that it is “too early for Metalist to have this much success in Europe,” and that they needed to be “knocked down a peg,” words that are unlikely to be forgotten. Metalist certainly don’t have the depth or the experience of a club like Dynamo, but they fought valiantly and put a scare into the Ukrainian giants, even if they will never admit it. In the end the match was decided by fitness, and the Dynamo staff deserve full credit for the way the squad was prepared. Metalist players emptied their tanks as they took the game to Dynamo for 80 minutes, but when they needed another push their legs just weren’t there. Even if Kiev’s second goal did not go in when it did, I doubt the hosts would have had enough to keep Dynamo out until the final whistle. Even so, Metalist have a right be proud of their performance in Europe this season, and they will no doubt be motivated to get back on track in the league so they can return for another go next season.
With Shakhtar Donetsk’s convincing win over CSKA Moscow the UPL still has two clubs vying for a trophy in the competition. Ligue 1 can claim the same distinction, and it will be French clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille that will face Dynamo and Shakhtar, respectively. I will hold off my thoughts about the next round for another post, except to say that I am fairly pleased with the draw and the task in front of Dynamo is no bigger than ones they already handled.