The second legs of the Ukrainian Cup 1/16 round took place this week with a varying degree of intrigue between the ties.
The Cup was reformed due to the Russian Occupation of Crimea and the subsequent restructuring of the elite Ukrainian football competitions. From the 1/16 round to the semi final, the Ukrainian Cup will now feature two legged ties as oppose to the single leg of last season. This is to make up for the loss of games in the UPL.
The Ukrainian Cup has previously featured two legged affairs and the reforms are a return to previous structures last seen in 2007/08 competition, where two legs were used in the quarter final and semi finals of the competition.
The format was changed to so that the fixtures lost in the Ukrainian Premier League, would be replaced by Cup games.
Critics of the reform in the Ukrainian Cup argued that the two legged affair would decrease the possibility of upsets and shocks, as the bigger teams would have a second leg to overturn any disappointment in the first legs. As a result a repeat of Second Division Slavutych Cherkasy’s heroic run to the semi-final in last year’s campaign seems even more unlikely.
Volyn pulled off a suprise victory in their first leg over FC Dnipro, but this was not good enough as Dnipro came back strongly and ultimately comfortably defeated Volyn 4:0 at the Dnipro Arena, adding to the theory that the new format will not provide as many shocks and the stronger teams will likely progress.
This theory of the benefits to the stronger clubs gains further strength as Stal Dn’s 2:1 first leg lead against Chornomorets was reversed in the second leg (Chornomorets won the second leg 2:1 and 4:2 on penalties). Over one leg Stal stood a very good chance but over two legs it was too much to ask.
The ultimate proof of the stronger sides progressing is that in the last 8, all the cubs will be from the Ukrainian Premier League, where as in the 2013/14 season, there were only four UPL sides, two from the First League and two from the Second League.
There is also the possibility of an increase in the number of ‘dead’ games. Shakhtar comfortably defeated FC Poltava in the first leg (5:1); rendering the result a foregone conclusion and a tie with limited interest (Shakhtar won the second leg 4:1 and the tie 9:2 overall). Mircea Lucescu was upset with the lack of competitiveness after the first leg claiming that it wasn’t adequate preparation for Shakhtars Champions League campaign. Shakhtar had proposed a different league structure before the campaign but this was eventually rejected and they may still feely slightly aggrieved at this. It would also be worth remember this is still early in the competition and as it goes on the ties will get harder and more competitive for Shakhtar.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu has been particularly critical of the new format.
“The Cup is a competition where any club, even from the lower leagues, should have a chance to get to the final and even win it. These chances were eliminated with the addition of two legged ties. As it stands, the cup is a repeat of the Premier League. It was more interesting with the old format.”
There have however been exciting games and intriguing ties. Dynamo’s game against Karpaty was a close run thing, with the Cup holders edging it 2:0 over the two legs and only securing the tie with a last minute Oleh Husyev strike in the second leg. Until then, the tie could have gone either way.
The new format of the Ukrainian Cup will allow exciting ties and as the weaker teams drop out, the latter rounds of the competition have the potential to create great excitement. Who would be opposed to a two-legged Ukrainian Derby with the prize of the semi-final or final ahead?
FC Poltava 1-5 Shakhtar / Shakhtar 4:1 FC Poltava (Shakhtar win 9:2 on aggregate)
Olexandria 0:1 Zorya / Zorya 1:1 Olexandria (Zorya win 2:1)
Illichivets 0:1 Vorskla / Vorskla 3:2 Illichivets (Vorskla win 4:2)
Hoverlya 2:2 Metalist / Metalist 1:1 Hoverlya (Metalist win 3:3 on away goals)
Volyn 1:0 Dnipro / Dnipro 4:0 Volyn (Dnipro win 4:1)
Karpaty 0:1 Dynamo / Dynamo 1:0 Karpaty (Dynamo win 2:0)
Stal Dniprodzerzhynsk 2:1 Chornomorets / Chornomorets 2:1 Stal Dniprodzerzhynsk (Chornomorets won 4:2 on penalties after a 3:3 draw)
Olimpik D 2:0 Metalurg Zp / Metalurg Zp 0:4 Olimpik D (Olimpik D win 6:0)
Article by Peter Chymera, Vice-President of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Peter on twitter – @PMChymera89