Ok, so now it really is “Win, and we’re in”…
When I said “0-0 draw”, more than a couple eyes rolled, and a few snickered “typical football scores”. And to a certain extent, yesterday’s match was just that. Cautious midfield play, miserly defending and at times great goalkeeping kept both the Greek and Ukrainian scorers out of the nets.
A handful of notable attempts were made – two Andriy Shevchenko free kicks in the first 15 minutes – the first being the dangerous one – set an early tone for the Ukrainian attack. He was, however, frustratingly blanketed for most of the rest of the game, forced to play more of an assisting role for peers, quarterbacking with passes. During a bit of Greek defensive confusion, Ruslan Rotan miss-fired with a lot of net in front of him (Andriy Yarmolenko replaced Rotan in the 46th minute). Artem Milevskiy also sent a good opportunity over the Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas. In the 68th minute, Taras Mykhalyk fired a cracker, which Tzorvas was able to punch away. Ukraine looked good on the counter-attack, but seemed to hesitate in the box – and at my local Ukrainian sports club, a veteran fan told me “hesitate in the box, and you don’t score” – something they’ll have to consider in the home game. The team also seemed to disappoint when it came to set-pieces.
Greek scoring sensation Theofanis Gekas had a couple chances, his best being a first-half header that had the Ukraine fans on the edge of their seats – Andriy Pyatov to the rescue. Gekas did score, but on an offside cross. The Ukrainian defense covered Gekas well, leading to his being replaced by Angelos Charisteas (and boos from some Greek fans). Late in the game, Kostas Mitroglou made his international debut. In the last real chance of the match (well into second-half added time), Greek defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos sent a header wide from a cross – but goals just weren’t meant to be.
There were a number of free kicks called either way, and fortunately none decided the outcome of the match.
I wish I had booked a weekend trip to Athens – match tickets were apparently available. Olympic Stadium’s upper bowl looked nearly empty. I’ve heard different numbers, but 50,000 seemed an optimistic tally for the number of fans in the 75,000 seat stadium – disappointing fan support for such an important fixture.
“Ukraine were very effective with their passing combinations and their attacking players were very good,” said Greek coach Otto Rehhagel. He expects to welcome back a few injured players that didn’t play in the first leg (see my previous blog).
After the match Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko was quoted “we tried to play on the counter attack and our game plan went well… (in the Wednesday match) both teams have an equal chance of going through although we do have a slight advantage because of the fact that we will be playing at home in the deciding game.”
Gambling site Will Hill’s odds on the Wed, Nov 18th second leg are Ukraine to win 4-5, draw 21-10, and a Greek victory at 3-1 – almost the reverse of odds ahead of the Athens fixture. Temperature looks to be 8 degrees C (not freezing), with a chance of rain. I’ve heard Shakhtar’s new 50,000-seat Donbass Arena is already sold out.
Welcome to Donetsk, Rehhagel, Gekas and team.
Good luck Ukraine. This really is it – win, and we’re in.
Good article. Losing my patience with Milevsky a little bit. What worries me now is one Greek goal now counts as two cause of stupid aggregate rule. A 1-1 tie would favour Greece. We have to score and not concede. I hope we can smoke them and not always have to watch a nail biter.
Posted from United States
I hope Ukraine gets the job done.
Posted from United States
Good luck on both the match and the blog (if you qualify). The match was dead boring to my eyes, and our team was absolute shite. Your outfit isn’t quite what it used to be, but I think the hometown pressure will be telling.
Posted from Republic Of Korea
If Sheva is blanketed and Nazarenko out, who will score? It certainly won’t be Milevsky, he’s been invisible in big games. I can see goals very hard to come by, and I don;t forsee Ukraine scoring one. Its sad but true…just can;t picture it. Rain wont help matters, I was hoping it would be freezing….anyways, big crowd might help. Good luck, we’ll need it!
Well, this is it. Good luck Sheva, Milevskiy and co tomorrow – I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight…
I’m absolutely crushed! no world cup. did you see Shev lose it after the final whistle? Someone help me cope with this.
Very good blog.I think this is very helpful.Good job.
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