At organizers’ discretion the main contenders for the victory in the Khmelnytskyi Open Cup met in the opening match of the tournament: Sokil – a home team and Phoenix - a team from Kharkiv that won a golden double this season in its age category. In terms of regalia and head-to-heads results, Phoenix’ players could be considered top dogs, Sokil’s advantage was playing on the home parquet. Jumping ahead, the local parquet, of note, left quite good impressions: both in terms of the site dimensions and its flooring everything seemed to be in perfect order in Khmelnytsky.
Realizing the importance of the match, the coaches of Phoenix acted without experiments: Lazeba took the place in the goal, and the classic staffing of the two four-player squads remained intact. From the very first minutes, the hosts took the initiative, trying to play the same trumps as the Kharkiv team –the standards. The first chance at Lazeba's goal was created by Bernada who shot past the far post after a corner. After Bevza's shot, Phoenix’ goalkeeper had to save his teammates. The Kharkivites gave the initiative away consciously, responding occasionally with counterattacks.
By the middle of the match (of note, according to the rules the teams play one half only, consisting of 25 minutes of running time), the game livened up a bit. If the outs and corners of Sokils did not pose a serious danger, the quick throw-ins from Zhytnikovsky - the goalkeeper - gave the Phoenix defense a hard time. One of the throw-ins almost ended with an accurate shot: from a shooting position, Sokil’s striker struck hard, but inaccurately. Phoenix managed to level the game, but Bodnar, Bezruk and Boldyzhev did not realize their moments.
The most dangerous events occurred in the last five minutes of the match. First, Yevsyukov intercepted the ball and ran down the right flank, slotting past Zhytnikovsky. Even more impressive was Lazeba's save, though, after a Rostkovsky’s kick, who broke away and scored a one-timer. A small ‘fire’ broke out in the penalty area of Phoenix, which Boldyzhev managed to put out. Finally, in the last seconds, Bezruk had two half-moments, but the score on the scoreboard remained unchanged.
Despite the fact that the teams did not score a single goal, the aftertaste of the match was quite pleasant. Both teams played real futsal, showing both good technique and interesting tactical solutions. Both Kharkiv and the hosts of the tournament sought to play standards, including ‘adult’ throw-ins from the corner flag and volleys. Although this match has not determined the winner, the teams have to play once again, and there is a strong feeling that the meeting could become decisive in determining the winner of the tournament.
The other two matches ahead of Phoenix on the same day were of much less tournament interest. The team from Bereznyaki was familiar to Phoenix by Ukrainian Cup U17 in absentia, but there it played the role of a complete outsider, so here too the audience could expect a crushing defeat. At the same time, fans of the Kharkiv team, familiar with the ideology of Phoenix, knew that even in the case of a significant difference in class, their favorites will not declassify the opponent with a double-digit score.
The first minutes of the game confirmed the pre-match expectations. In the first attack Soldatenko assisted Konkov who was free and who scored Phoenix’ first goal in the tournament. Dolhulia had two great moments, but failed to distinguish himself. The second four-player squad enhanced the advantage of Phoenix - the defenders of Chernihiv сame apart before Boldyzhev, and he easily broke into the corner of the goal, playing one-two with Yevsyukov. Even at the point the score was 2:0 – one could see - the players from Bereznyaki were simply too slow for the fast run-ins of the Phoenix offense, so if the violets had set a goal to increase the goal difference, they would have done it easily. The reverse side of the relaxation and grandeur of Kharkiv futsal players was a large percentage of errors. Eldar Bratchuk, who defended the Phoenix goal, almost dropped the ball after a simple free kick. Defenders also played extremely carelessly, allowing inaccurate passes and positional miscalculations. In fairness, moments at the goal of Bereznyakov continued to occur, but the goalkeeper saved his team repeatedly.
Substitute Danylo Zamula managed to change the situation on the site. First, he snatched the ball from the goalie after Boldyzhev’s pass and took the score to 3:0, and a minute later scored a double. In the last minutes of the match Khodatsky and Dolhulia scored 5:0, two of them on one goalkeeper.
The players from Bereznyaki managed to ‘snap’ at the violets and scored a goal of prestige: the striker took advantage of a long shot and inconsistent play between Bratchuk and Soldatenko, punching from the penalty area of Phoenix right in the corner of the goal. The match was polished off by Danylo Boldyzhev, who after a free kick shot exactly into the far post with the ball bouncing right into the net.
The last match of the game day for Phoenix was with a club whose name our fans and players will remember for a long time, because it was Respect the head-to-head with which deprived the team of gold medals of the Ukrainian U15 Championship. But today's rivals were not from Manevichi, but from Lutsk.
The coaches made adjustments to the four-player squads, letting Danylo Zamula, who played well an hour earlier, enter the court from the very start, and leaving Maksym Dolhulia on the bench. The same brisk start as in the previous game did not happen. Phoenix failed to score a quick goal, despite several dangerous moments. The first four-player squad looked quite ‘sleepy’, and only the second managed to score the first goal. First, Danylo Boldyzhev took the initiative, suppressing the defenders in the penalty area of the opposition and slotted past the goalkeeper after an angled kick. Demyd Yevsyukov tried to repeat Zidane’s trick too but failed. Oleksandr Bezruk managed to double the score: being alone in front of the goalkeeper he sent the ball into the net in a second go. Soldatenko, Khodatsky and Konkov showed a great combination play, but the last pass did not reach the recipient. Finally, Konkov robbed the defender off the ball near the corner flag and assisted Khodatsky, who scored into the empty net.
With the score 3:0 Phoenix moved to the game with five, but numerical advantage was created by Eldar Bratchuk, the goalkeeper. The Kharkiv futsal players managed to control the ball easily, there were difficulties with a sharp game. As Phoenix was trying to come up with something non-trivial with the fifth outfield player on board, a bad pass came through, and only the lack of experience and skills of the players of Respect led to the fact that the score remained unchanged. Phoenix has a lot of work ahead regarding this component of the game, and only the fact of the match being a friendly one made it possible for the players to attack without fear of critical mistakes.
In one of the attacks, Kharkiv did not have the time to adjust to the game of five outfields and carried out the usual attack, which was turned home by Mykyta Bodnar with an accurate shot to the far corner of the goal, bringing the score to 4:0. Danylo Khodatsky scored twice dangerously in the last minutes, but the long-range shots never reached the goal. The final whistle was to claim the confident victory of Phoenix, as well as the presence of intrigue in the fight for the gold" of the tournament. Phoenix and Sokil after the first day broke away from the rest of the teams, and their meeting tomorrow is likely to be much like the final.