Following the European draws this week, the eyes of Europe would have been scouting Europe for the chance to watch new opponents. The matchday’s highlight game took place at NSC Olympiyskyi, with Dynamo Kyiv full of adrenaline following their Champions League Group Stage qualification in four years. Zorya Lugansk has made substantial progress over the last few weeks following a difficult summer. The match took place behind closed doors due to the COVID pandemic, and the referee was Kateryna Monzul, who caused a few controversies in Dynamo Kyiv games late last season.
Since mid-March, Viktor Skripnik, coach of Zorya Luhansk, has favored his 4-3-1-2 starting formation in every game. It proves the benchmark of his team. There was only one real change with the attacking midfielder before March, playing behind the midfield three in a 4-1-3-2 style. The team very rarely finishes a game, in the same manner, changing shape in the second half. Zorya has had to embed several new players following the end of last season, as seen in the images below.
The first image is the team that faced Dynamo Kyiv at the end of last season in July, whereas the team on the right faced them in October of this year. Tymchuk, Cheberko, and Myhailychenko have all left the club since last season, causing a significant defense transition. The introduction of defensive midfielder Lovto Cvek in the 72nd minute saw him partner Ivanisenko as a second holding midfielder as the team began to tire.
Controlling the first 30 minutes.
A trait of Skripnik’s teams both at home and away is that they like to control the ball early in the game. In tighter games, they like to keep the ball away from the opposition, whereas, against weaker oppositions, they try to score early on. Against bottom team, FC Lviv the previous weekend, Zorya Lugansk scored twice in the first ten minutes. Against Dynamo Kyiv, they had over 60& of possession during the first thirty minutes of the game. The team played a lot of simple passes, as seen in the image below.
In this image, Favorov, the right-back, has the ball inside the opposition’s half. We can see the midfielder make himself available for the ball, but Favorov’s eyesight is directed towards the backline. Passes between him and Venydub totaled twenty during the game and marked Zorya’s approach in the first half. They aimed to keep the ball away from the opposition as a primary task. This attitude was further exemplified by Zorya going forty minutes without a shot following an initial foray into Dynamo’s area. On the other side of the defensive line, Abu Hanna and Khomchenovskiy exchanged balls at a high point of thirty-three times during the game.
Pivotal Dima Ivanisenya
Dima Ivaniseva played the type of role that never goes unnoticed in the analysis of the game. He sat quietly in front of the back four, protecting the line whenever Dynamo had possession. In the image below, we can see Ivaniseva acutely aware of the danger ball available to Rodgriues. He shows quick alertness to intercept and end the danger for Zorya.
Even if it is not the most flattering of statistics, Ivaniseva did not attempt a pass in the final third, highlighting his strict positional sense within the Zorya line-up, allowing the team to attack elsewhere. We can see him here again in the following image, winning the ball off Shaparenko, the attacking midfielder for Dynamo Kyiv, and nullifying an attack in the early stages.
His spiral below highlights how he provides the critical bolt in his team’s plays, spreading the ball around the field during the game.
Forward Play in the Second Half
Once Skripnik had frustrated the Dynamo forwards throughout the first half, he encouraged the team to push forward in search of a goal. We saw possession drop alarmingly in the second half, as the safety-first approach was put on hold for the first fifteen minutes. We can see the two full-backs pushing on quite far in front of the central pairing in the image below. With Ivaniseva, sitting deep as well, it gave the two of them license to roam.
We can see both full-backs highlighted, with Favorov slightly further forward on the right=hand side. In this passage of play, the ball moves from the left-back across the field through Kabaev. On his cross-field pass, it reaches the number 7 ‘Kochergin, who places the ball home expertly from 25 yards. The advanced full-backs caused Dynamo several problems in the second half as Zorya looked to attack through them in a Liverpool-esque manner.
The final key to Zorya’s success against Dynamo was involved in the backline. To illustrate this better, we need to look at where they engaged the Dynamo attackers most frequently throughout the game. From the image below, Zorya looked to engage deep within their half, with around two-thirds of their ball recoveries occurring in their own third of the pitch.
It appears that the defense would make a clear line, deep in their half, after turning over the ball. This is further exemplified in the next image where the defense is waiting just on the edge of the area for a long ball upfield. There is a large gap between Verbic challenging for the ball and the three attacking midfielders for Dynamo Kyiv. This allowed Zorya to tidy up many of the attacks that Dynamo Kyiv had during the game.
It is unusual to see a game so stretched as early as the 26th minute, but this was played out throughout the game’s first half.
Viktor Skripnik sent his team out on Sunday with the clear intention to frustrate the Dynamo Kyiv players during the opening half of their encounter. The deep-lying defenders would win many of the duels and tidy up attacks. During the first half, they would then play keep ball, making the opposition use excessive energy to win back the ball. In the second half, they exploited this to attack with added intensity against a frustrated Dynamo Kyiv team. It provided them with the opening goal, which they were unfortunate not to hold on to in their 1-1 draw.