My aim at the start of this season was to do well in the Europa League, Win the League within two years and win a cup within the first two years. We’ll start with the last one on that list.
Dynamo had won the cup in 2013/14, retaining it wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t something I was really concentrating on. Our chances of winning the league tailed off fairly soon after the winter break, so I switched my attention to the cup. The way our games were piling up, it seemed easier to have my players fully fit for cup matches.
After coming through the first few rounds fairly easily, we drew Dnipro in the semi final. They’d just knocked out Shakhtar very convincingly. I didn’t hold much hope, but I thought if I could come away with a draw or even a marginal defeat in the first leg, I could maybe snatch it at home in the second.
In the first leg they were all over us, we sat back and only had two out of six attempts on target. We did manage to hold them off and came away with a 0-0 draw, exactly what I wanted. We got them back to ‘our house’ for the second leg and the tables turned. We were dominant and put the ball in the back of the net twice, only for both to be ruled out for offside. Heartbreaking. At the end of 90 minutes it was deadlocked at 0-0. We had the better chances and more of the ball. Extra time loomed. Again it ended 0-0 with neither team really looking to grab the game by the balls and score. Dnipro employed the same tactics as we did in the first leg and held out for the draw.
I’ve got a terrible record in penalty shoot-outs. I could probably count on one hand how many times I’ve won. Today was indeed our day though as we managed to defeat Dnipro 5-4 on penalties. In a strange twist of fate, Eugene Selin, who I sold to Dnipro at the start of the season, was the player who missed his penalty. Suck on that!
The Final was only four days later against Metalurg D. We’d narrowly defeated them in both of our games this season. I was confident that we’d get the win. Within 3 minutes of the final, it looked as if I was wrong. Sobol smashed home a 20 yard strike and I was gutted. We’ve been terrible at coming back. I don’t remember winning or drawing from a losing position all season. First half ended 1-0. I made a couple of changes at half-time. Bliznichenko came on to play left wing and Rybalka came on to play in the middle. Both would have different impacts on the game. 50th, 60th, 70th and 80th minutes passed. We were on top but nothing was going our way. Metalurg had empolyed two DM’s which we really struggled to break down. Until the 82nd minute, Bliznichenko latched onto a mis-hit shot and BAM.. 1-1. Almost spilled my tea all over the desk! We were getting frustrated as the foul count was rising and rising.
Extra time again. I knew I needed to score as soon as possible. We kicked off and within seconds Rybalka was injured, I’d already used my third substitute when I took off Zozulya for Kravets in the 70th minute. We were finishing this game with ten men and likely, with a runners-up medal.
We’ve been terrible at set-pieces this season, but twice we hit the woodwork in extra time from a free-kick and then a corner. HT in ET passed. I just knew that they’d grab the late winner, I just knew it. With 10 men and with the tiredness levels creeping up, we weren’t going to be able to hold out, let alone get up and score. But hold out we did, FT..
Penalty kicks.. AGAIN!
Again my confidence was low, another penalty shoot-out, no way. We’re not getting this. Two of our better penalty takers had already gone off. I left the room, I hate penalties. When I came back, we’d scored all five, two of them by defenders and Metalurg had scored three.
CUP WINNERS! Yey!
Penalties though.. bloody hell! Here’s our run to the final.
The league went all wrong for me. Dnipro and Shakhtar just don’t drop points, they each lost 3 games and I lost 6 which was very poor. We started off with 2 points from a possible 9 and from then on we were playing catch up. We could never claw back the points as Dnipro and Shakhtar just piled up the points. Our inability to break teams down really cost us in games where we went behind. Our final league results looked like this.
Dnipro won the league thanks to a little slip up by Shakhtar. We were 11 points behind in 3rd place but 9 points ahead of 4th place. So we’re obviously quite good, but not in that top two. Hopefully with a couple of quality signings this summer, we can make up some ground. When we lost Yarmolenko that really affected us. Final league standings.
The Europa League was hot and cold for us, I thought that we’d be lucky to get out of a group which contained Feyenoord, Sparta Praha and Real Sociedad, but we ended up on top. Interestingly, there were no drawn games in that group. We played Steaua Bucharest in the first knock-out match which we won 2-0 on aggregate thanks to goals in both legs by Yarmolenko. The prize was a trip to Florence against Fiorentina. We played alright over the two legs, but mistakes cost us. Two own goals in the space of a minute was our downfall. We drew 1-1 in the second leg, which would’ve put us out on away goals anyway, but it was a bitter pill to swallow in the first game.
So, a cup win and a disappointing league campaign, despite a lot of noise from the press about me getting the sack, as well as a meeting with the board after the 3-0 defeat from Metalist, I’ve got a new contract. Just!
Need to clear out a couple of players and invest in some creativity in the middle of the park as well as a creative right back. My goalkeeping woes should be cleared up when Koval returns from loan. There’s a few players on loan just now that will likely be sold on. A summer transfer report will be out in due course. Just need to draw up some plans!