After the golden brace, which brought Phoenix the gold of the Ukrainian Championship and the National Cup in its age category, Serhii Hrytsenko and Yurii Vashchenko's team decided to try their hand in the senior age category, aiming for next season's Youth Extra League. In actual fact, had the violets known the size of the court to host one of the main tournaments in the oldest age category for AFU Youth Futsal this season, the team would almost certainly not have registered for it. The court of Chernihiv National University of Technology (CNUT) is about a third shorter than the one in our home Sports Centre of National University of Pharmacy, and it is narrower, too. So, Phoenix was deprived of almost all its trump cards even before the start of the Cup.
This was immediately confirmed by the opening match of the Cup of Ukraine, in which our team met with Chernihiv Yunist, which the violets beat a month ago in the quarterfinals of the National Championship in Belozir 10:4. The short, narrow field, significantly different from minifootball standards, the court of CNUT’s sport centre eliminated many set pieces that require space, and turned smart and dynamic futsal into, let's not be afraid of the word, mediocre ‘ball game’. The inexperienced spectator could have liked it, though, as the size of the field allowed the teams to quickly move from defense to attack, and therefore, the number of dangerous moments and goals could not but grow.
For Phoenix the match was the first in the U-17 age category. The real test was not only in the level, age and fit of the opposition, but also in the increased time of the half - eighteen minutes of regulation time against the usual sixteen. Breaks and stops in the game put together, the match lasted for a good hour and a half - the Kharkiv team has not played at the city or national level for the time slot that long. The high pace and at the same time the chaotic pattern of the game, the need every now and then to make short shuttle runs from the opposition’s goal and back, added nothing but difficulties to the debut match of Kharkivites.
Already in the first seconds Phoenix conceded a ball: all of a sudden Danylo Khodatskyi lost the ball on and Olexandr Babir beat Volodymyr Lazeba, who defended Phoenix’ goal from the start. It took Kharkiv two minutes to adjust to the coverage and size of the court: Mykyta Bodnar's shot found the defender's leg and bounced into the home team's net. Yunist took the initiative, and Lazeba had to save the team several times, confidently playing on the goal line. In the fifth minute of the half, though, he was powerless, when passive defenders gave Danylo Pishchur the opportunity to make an accurate shot into the far corner of the goal. The advantage of Yunist lasted less than a minute, though. Olexandr Bezruk hit the post, and Bodnar's follow-up hit the hand of Oleksii Popovych, the defender, who lay on the floor; Danylo Boldyzhev succeeded with the spot-kick. But the goal extravaganza did not stop there, and the two eleventh numbers of the teams made another goal take place: the player of Yunist scored after the corner kick, and the ball deflected off Mykhailo Soldatenko and into the far corner of the goal past Lazeba who was merely flabbergasted. Having scored five goals in less than seven minutes, the team spent the next five minutes without scoring. No, there were moments at both goalmouthes, and the opposition was brave enough to enter the court with five outfields. In one of the situations Roman Khobotnya, Yunist goalie, even managed to earn a yellow card for throwing the ball in the opposition’s half of the court. It was the Kharkiv team, though, that managed to excel once again: in minute 12 the ubiquitous Mykyta Bodnar skillfully responded to Artem Shevchenko's flick-back and slotted past the opposition's goalkeeper to equalize for the third time.
In the last minutes of the half Serhii Hrytsenko and Yurii Vashchenko took a minute break to let the boys take a breath. Timeout had a beneficial effect on Phoenix’ play and Kharkiv managed to get ahead for the first time in the match: Artem Shevchenko took the ball and brought to Danylo Boldyzhev’s shooting position and the latter was accurate. Phoenix secured the advantage a minute before the break. For the first time the players of the first four managed to excel: Danylo Khodatskyi found Maksym Dolhulia, forgotten by defenders, who slotted past the goalkeeper calmly. In the last seconds of the half Lazeba had to save his team once again after a strong blow from Yunist striker.
After the break Eldar Bratchuk took his spot in the goalmouth of Phoenix and the whole team was in deep defence, as Yunist was determined to turn the tide. It seemed that the team from Chernihiv succeeded, because the hosts managed to score twice in just two minutes, leveling the score: both goals were scored by Denys Chukh and both were scored from the penalty area, with no proper defence provided by defenders. In such a situation, the Phoenix players were at a high risk of failure but the Oleksii Popovych the defender of the opposition came to the rescue sending the ball into his own goal after Bodnar's through ball. The next few minutes passed in a fierce battle, after which Danylo Zamula made a brilliant display of his individual skill: he intercepted an inaccurate pass from the opponent, went one on one with the goalkeeper, beating him technically and sending the ball into an empty net.
Having regained the advantage of two goals, Phoenix seemed to be finally liberated and began to show the play. Even despite the missed ball - a hat-trick of Denys Chukh - the players in violet uniforms calmly led the match to victory. Danylo Boldyzhev played one-two with the pivot, went one on one with the goalkeeper and shot into the net. Yunist goalkeeper Roman Khobotnya was able to score a long shot, but Demyd Yevsyukov scored twice in response: first he deceived the goalkeeper cleverly at two –to-zero, intercepting the ball after a cross and escaping the goalkeeper, slotting the ball past the defender.
When Olexandr Bezruk scored 7:11 with a long left foot shot, it became clear that Phoenix would not miss its victory. For the last three minutes, the Kharkiv team had five fouls, but managed to refrain from breaking the rules and avoided a ten-meter free kick. The teams managed to exchange goals that mattered only in terms of individual statistics: Kyrylo Kraskovskyi and Denys Chukh, who scored a a glut, for Yunist players and Demyd Yevsyukov with a hat-trick for Phoenix. The final whistle sounded at 10:12 (in Phoenix favour) – a score that was rare even for futsal.
The next two matches of the tournament ended with the same atypical results, though, even for futsal. The team of Youth School Kamyani Potoky beat Bereznyaky Children Futsal Club 27:2, and then our tomorrow's rivals, Lviv FC Kopa and Youth School Novy Buh, finished their match with a score of 16:5 in Lviv’s favour.
The celebration of ball games on a non-standard site will continue tomorrow. Phoenix will finish its group stage matches. At 10:40 our team will meet with Lviv, and at 16:00 - with players from Novy Buh.