Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ukraine & Russia August 2008

Dnipro 0 Shakhtar Donetsk 0

To the Meteor stadium in Dnipropetrovosk for this game where the champions (Shakhtar) generally have possession , attack more, but tended not to control their shooting.
Both teams start fairly cautiously and its only near the end in a late flourish that Dnipro go really close.
They have a goal disallowed as did Shakhtar in the first half.

As seems to happen the match did not start at the advertised time (8.30 rather than 8.45) so maybe that was why the local ultras were somewhat late in arriving.
The visitors from Donetsk were in early and well separated from any local fans.

In another area of town the newly developed Dnipro stadium looks to be nearing completion with work being now done on the nearby roads.

Drive for around 4 hours and , if you don't get lost , you are in Donetsk.

Metalurh Donetsk 3 Kharkiv 0
League leaders Metalurh continued their perfect record with their fourth win (and only one goal conceded)
They are playing , appropriately enough at their Metalurh stadium. Its a small , neat, stadium in maybe not the best area of Donetsk.
After scoring two in the first half including a penalty from the influencial Fernandez the home team got to dominate the game , restricting Kharkiv to a few chances. Nigerian striker Kingsley got the third after beating the goalie and slotting it home left footed.
After that it was easy.

In the evening in Donetsk it was warm and pleasant as the 'musical fountain' attracted a crowd, many wandering around the centre with beer in hand.

In this part of the world the scenery can certainly be industrial but the 'scenery' , as mentioned previously , was impressive.

From Metalurh to Metalist - in Kharkiv.

Some 4.5 hours by car , somewhat longer if you go the wrong way.

But the Metalist stadium is worth a visit - large and reasonably well filled (around 19,000) with local fans for their game against Lviv.

Prior to the start we heard the Metalist song - presumably metal featured in the lyrics.

Sadly this was another goalless match with the homw team , 2nd in the league , generally on top. In the second half they definitely dominated as Lviv wasted time. But the away side also defended well.

A note on car travel in Ukraine.

The characteristics include looking out for the ever-present police - usually indicated by the oncoming drivers flashing their headlights.

Going in the right direction - given that what signage you get is in rarely in English - is key. This may mean stopping to 'ask' someone to confirm you are going the right way. Sometimes they draw a diagram or indicate that you should 'follow the tram lines'.

Minding the bumps in the road is a constant requirement.
The landscape on these routes was generally featureless. Somehow you think about what is not there i.e not too many towns, churches, hotels, starbucks ...

Then in the cities finding a hotel and the stadium location can be tricky - this driver adopted the approach of getting somewhere to stay, leaving the car (guarded) and using public transport - tram, bus, shared taxi or possibly metro to get to the game.

Then a diversion - a flight via Moscow to St Petersburg to see Zenit play in the Russian Premier.

Zenit 3 Terek Grozny 1

It rained and in a predominately open stadium watching was not too pleasant for most fans.

Some , the local ultras , had another reason to be downcast as one of their number had been killed in a bar-room altercation some days before.

But Zenit , with Arshavin, won comfortably enough at times showing some impressive passing and movement.

Arshavin was not dominant but it wasn't a concern as Zenit generally were on top.

Terek , with maybe a dozen fans plus reserves and surrounded by many police did present some danger to the home side but tended not to deliver the final pass.

Before the match I indulged in some culture and a visit to the awesome Hermitage museum.
Join the throng , many from cruise ships and large numbers queueing outside to see the Winter Palace and see a small portion of its vast fine art collection.

Back in sunny Donetsk (and it was - maybe 33 degrees) for a stroll to an old coal mine - as you do.
Then another car venture, driving east to Luhansk. A drive that passes many old coal mines and some typically bleak industrial towns. The weather continues to be very hot.

Luhansk is, well, fairly unremarkable. Some sizeable supermarkets grace the town and some decent restaurants though not too many (any ?)internet cafes. The main worry at the hotel was hoping the lifts didn't break down as they made some disconcerting noises.

Nearby the centre is the local stadium where I saw Zorya play Metalurh Donetsk.

Like last time Metalurh set their neat passing in motion and controlled the game via midfield. Again they scored from a Fernandez penalty and got a second after the interval as the home struggled to create chances. This was the Donetsk's team fifth consecutive win from the start of the season and they are ,at this stage , some 7 pts clear in the league.

Its worth keeping an eye on their progress and their coach.

Back one more time to Donetsk and a visit to the Olimpiski stadium for -

Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Metalist Kharkiv 2

to finish - the best game of the six.

Metalist stun Shakhtar with a Jackson Coelho cracker and another goal just before half time.

But early on in the second half Shakhtar got one back , then benefited from a slightly dubious penalty award to equalise. Metalist had a man sent off later but they held on for the draw.

Around 20,000 watched including a decent number from Kharkiv.

Having survived the Ukrainian roads and a couple of flights (on time) in a Tupolev this correspondent endured a British Airways delay of around 4 hours in Kiev airport on the return trip.

for more pics see

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