By Maura Gladys
Dynamo Kiev entered last Thursday’s Europa League clash against Besitkas with a laundry list of questions to be answered. How would the squad perform after a two-month layoff? How would newly-appointed manager Yuri Semin do in his second debut with the club? Was the squad good enough to return to final stages of a major European tournament, after its disappointing finish last season?
Dynamo answered all of those questions with a convincing 4-1 win, and will look to put the Turkish side to the sword this Thursday in Kiev.
Last Thursday’s game displayed a Besiktas team in shambles. It was without captain Ibrahim Uzulmez, whose contact was terminated last week after he allegedly punched a teammate in a locker room scuffle, and their lone goalscorer of the match, Ricardo Quaresma, saw red in stoppage time and will miss the second leg. Goalkeeper Hakan Arikan’s takedown of Oleg Gusev in the penalty area, which led to Dynamo’s fourth goal, completed the meltdown.
Dynamo, on the other hand, displayed a skilled, hardworking side that efficiently executed a simple game plan and were rewarded with several goals. Two of their four goals came off of corner kicks, while their third was an indirect result of a free kick, which reflected Dynamo’s ability to press offensively while not remaining soft in the back. That’s not to say that Dynamo dominated the game. In fact, besides goal differential, Dynamo and Besiktas were close or equal in several statistical categories, including shots on goal and possession. It was Dynamo’s ability to put the ball in good positions and finish that really made the difference.
Goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy was the man of the match for Dynamo. Even though Andriy Shevchenko and Gusev contributed a goal and an assist each, Shovkovskiy made several brilliant saves, many from extreme close range, which quelled any momentum that Besiktas was trying to build.
Going into the second leg of the tie, Dynamo have the decided edge. Although they’ll be missing center back Taras Mikhalik, who is out with a knee injury, they have a three-goal lead in their home stadium, and are facing a floundering opponent. Look for Semin to stack the defense, in what will probably be a relatively boring 1-0 or 0-0 game.
If the Ukraine side does progress to the final 16, they’ll face the winner of Aris Salonika and Manchester City, who are currently locked in a 1-1 draw.