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Ukrainian Cup

The Win-Win Final

Phoenix and Urahan (Hurricane) played the final match of the Cup of Ukraine U17 in such a way that there were no losers in the end. One of the two teams got the Cup in its age category. Other – was satisfied that again, as in summer in Chernomorsk, its palyers were able to adequately resist the absolute leader of youth futsal in the U17 age group. Fans and organizers enjoyed just about the only intriguing and exciting match of the tournament: the match that was definitely worth the status of a final match of the tournament.

Phoenix just as in the semi-final with the Valky Youth Sports School followed a strictly defensive style, relying on counterattacks. That was understandable - almost the entire game, with the exception of rare minutes, Urahan was forced to use its first four-player squad, consisting entirely of players from U17 youth team of Ukraine, two of which were born in 2004 a year up from the players of the age group that was higher than ours. That tension and uncertainty until the very final whistle for the Ivano-Frankivsk team was created by our group of players - a year or two younger. Demyd Yevsyukov, one of the best players of the match, is 4 years younger than his Ivano-Frankivsk opponents.

Let us not mention the factor of the narrow court again, much has already been said. The court was equally inconvenient both for us and for Urahan. Frankly speaking, the level of play that both teams were able to show in the final under the given conditions was an indicator of the level of participants in the key match of the tournament.

In U17 Youth Extra League, obviously lacking intrigue, Urahan had no losses. In 12 matches played, Ivan Danylyshyn’s team conceded only 8 goals. The indicator is truly impressive. In Chernihiv in four matches before the final, the ‘dragons’ conceded only 4 times. That is why 3 goals scored by our boys to such an opponent, of course, is nothing but a positive result. Moreover, this season, there were no other matchups as productive for the opposition of Urahan as this one in terms of goals scored.

From the very first minutes of the game it became clear that the match would be different from the matches Phoenix had had. And it’s not even the strength of the opponent as such, but what Urahan played: it was real futsal, which we had already lost the habit of over the previous few games on a court like that and with football (not futsal) teams.

The first part of the half was fully led by Urahan. The first four-player squad made up of the players of the national youth team of Ukraine gave Phoenix’ defenders a hard time. A clear focus of Urahan’s attacks was on the right flank, from where dangerous passes or long-range shots were constantly delivered. In the first minutes, our defenders left Aftanas behind in the penalty area, but Mykyta Bodnar saved the situation in time. The siege of Lazeba’s net continued, but the Kharkivites covered the dangerous shots in a disciplined manner. There were not so many episodes at Pochynok’s net: long-range shots by Dolhulia and Yevsyukov. Longballs to Artem Shevchenko that had been so helpful previously were not working with a stronger opponent.

Although the pressure of Urahan could sooner or later lead to a goal scored, the defenders of Phoenix brought about a goal themselves. Danylo Khodatskyi, knocking the ball out of his penalty area, hit Damian Zaporozhan, and in an attempt to correct his own mistake, he played into the opponent's leg. And although Zaporozhan’s kick had already gone wide of the goal, the referee still awarded a free kick. A six-meter kick was realized by Andrii Aftanas, who sent the ball and Lazeba to the opposite corners of the goal.

Nevertheless, the conceded goal did not confuse the Kharkiv team and already in the return attack they equalized the score. Artem Shevchenko dragged the ball from his own penalty area after a corner kick by Urahan, surrounded by three defenders, managed to pass the ball to Khodatskyi; Danylo's shot was parried by Oleksandr Pochynok, but the ball bounced off Dmytro Fedyk -the defender - and flew into the goal after the deflection. So, at the end of minute eleven of the match the score was 1:1.

Their spirits up, Phoenix’ players decided not to stop there and began to take more frequent trips to the other half. There was Mykyta Bodnar’s promising run along the left sideline; having beaten one defender, he lost possession of the ball, though. A minute later, a real ‘cold shower’ awaited the Ivano-Frankivsk guys: after a throw-in by Phoenix, Ivan Konkov hit hard, the ball met Ivan Drozdov’s shoulder and flew into Hurricane’s net. So, it was for the first time in the entire tournament that the Ivano-Frankivsk team had to play behind.

The game, which might have seemed a laughter to Urahan, took on an unexpected turn and the futsal players from both teams began losing their cool. A few minutes earlier, Volodymyr Lazeba received a yellow card for talking with the referee, but the judges cooled Dmytro Fedyk and Demyd Yevsyukov’s ardor with warnings: the guys were both aiming for the right to make a throw-in, which went to the more authoritative Urahan after an obvious refereeing mistake. Ivano-Frankivsk put pressure on Lazeba and in a few minutes the desired result was achieved. First, right before the timeout requested by Serhii Hrytsenko, Danylo Khodatskyi overlooked his teammate in the penalty area, and Damian Zaporozhan equalized the score with an accurate shot. Fifteen seconds before the whistle for a break, Pavlo Skitsko's long-range shot reached the goal, and again Urahan took the lead – 3:2.

The second half began with the overactivity of the leader of the Youth Extra League. Damian Zaporozhan used his hand in the attack and kicked the ball into the corner of Lazeba’s net, but Phoenix' goalkeeper handled it beyond praise. Yurii Vashchenko's objections to the refereeing led to another yellow card - to our coach this time. The supermoment was missed by Zaporozhan, who hit the post with an acute angle shot after Fedyk's through ball.

The first moment at the gates of Urahan occurred only in minute five of the second half: Ivan Konkov passed through the center and shot past Pochynok; the ball hit the far post, deflected into the goalkeeper not crossing the goal line. Generally, Urahan was in full control and only the selfless game of Lazeba and the defenders led to the fact that the score remained unchanged.

Realizing that the result would completely satisfy the ‘dragons’ as it was then, futsal players of Phoenix began to put pressure on the opponents more actively. Having regained possession of the ball, our players tried to dispose of it more prudently, controlling and playing one-two with Maksym Dolhulia and Artem Shevchenko. In another episode, Dolhulia fought to the end on the flank of the attack and managed to roll the ball from the corner flag to Bodnar, who passed it to Shevchenko, but the shot from Phoenix’ did not work out. Bodnar’s excellent heel pass worked out, but Khodatsky’s kick was blocked. Bezruk managed to interfere into a promising three-on-two attack, but gave an inaccurate pass to Yevsyukov. After the mistake of Urahan’s defenders, the same Yevsyukov intercepted the ball, but his long-range shot came out too inaccurate. In the middle of the half, there was the first foul recorded by the judges with Urahan players but the free-kick led to nothing. Finally, a set piece performed by Phoenix worked out and Khodatskyi slotted the ball between the legs of Urahan’s goalie in a corner kick – 3:3!

In less than five minutes before the end of the match the team from Ivano-Frankivsk rushed into the attack with renewed vigor: bringing the matter to a penalty shoot-out was not part of their plans. It seemed that the referee would issue another six-meter kick for Phoenix after an inaccurate shot by Zaporozhan and a belated tackle by Demyd Yevsyukov, but the limit of questionable refereeing decisions for that day, apparently, had been up. Urahan players and coaching staff were noticeably nervous: the first four ‘dragons’ reappeared on the court in full armour. Neither the technical skill nor the experience of the Extra League players became decisive in the end of this match, though. An occasional mistake turned out to be decisive for the outcome of the match: the goalkeeper of Phoenix in a simple situation gave the ball to an opponent in the center of the field just like that, the defenders did not have time to reposition themselves and Damian Zaporozhan turned home Dmytro Fedyk’s accurate pass, sending the ball into the empty net.

The last minutes of the match Phoenix spent in attacks with the fifth outfield player– Mykyta Bodnar put on a bib. Danylo Khodatskyi's long-range shot hit the goalkeeper. Half a minute before the final whistle, Demyd Yevsyukov gave a powerful pass, but it was too inaccurate. Artem Shevchenko played well during the last seconds, snatching the ball from two Urahan players and forwarding it to Maksym Dolhulia, but the last pass to Demyd Yevsyukov was interrupted by the defender of the Ivano-Frankivsk team.

The final whistle revealed the close victory of Urahan. The result of the match was a disappointment for our guys but only in terms of the final result. When considering registering for the U17 Cup of Ukraine, the boys (it was them who initiated the participation in the tournament) first of all wanted to try their hand with the Ivano-Frankivsk team. And the violets handled the matchup beyond praise, showing everyone that in the next season in the Youth Extra League U17 the Kharkiv team is capable of addressing serious challenges.