Vorskla Poltava 1-Desna Chernihiv 1: This battle for UEFA Europa Conference League spots came down to the wire; Vorskla deserved a win.
Vorskla, Desna and Kolos Kovalivka are in a battle for the two Ukrainian Europa Conference League spots and, after this result in Poltava, Desna have the final spot, ahead of Vorskla only on goal differential! This match had some, but few man advantage situations prevent themselves for either team. When two relatively good teams go at it, however, they have the ability to break deadlocked situations with individual movement or passes. That’s what was on display yesterday.
Here’s the home side’s tactical formation: 3–4–1–2 until, down to 10 men late, 3–4–2. Medium block.
Oleksanr Ryabokon’s side, Desna, set up in a 4–5–1 and then, in the 2nd Half, in a 5–4–1. They alternated low and medium blocks
Early on, Desna breaks from their tendencies and presses high. Vorskla finds themselves in a 3-v-4 situation at the back. The attempted solution to this scenario is to try a progressive pass (white arrow) to a player further forward (spotlighted). The central-defender is relying on individual talent to break a disadvantageous situation. It’s not the ideal solution, and in this case it doesn’t go as planned.
Here, Vorskla Poltava found themselves in a relatively favorable 3-v-3, with a good passing lane (white arrow) to utilize. It wasn’t utilized: the player with the ball (Yakubu (21/GHA)) dribbled, the situation fell apart and good opportunity deep is Desna territory produces nothing.
Yuri Maksimov’s side yet again finds themselves in a situation at the back, a 3-v-3 with no particular advantage to speak of. This time the wise decision is made: pass back to the goalkeeper and look to build again.
This time, a free kick. Vorskla have five in their own area (including the free kick taker), but Desna, ever astute defensively have five of their own near perfectly positioned. The result: a harmless punt downfield.
Nothing going on here either for Vorskla Poltava. They’re in a particularly precarious 2-v-4 man disadvantage with no options to speak of.
The player with the ball in the previous image decides to go big with a progressive pass to the right-wing-back (Yakubu, at the end of the curved arrow) opening up a potentially dangerous 3-v-2 deep in Desna territory (marked by the white polygon). Individual skill breaks the disadvantage!
The ball goes to Yakubu and the situation morphs into a 2-v-1. He dinks the ball over the defender and now another Vorskla player has the ball, but is in a man disadvantage. What next?
Thill (left spotlight) makes a blazing run (white arrow) undetected by the Desna defense, blowing apart a 2-v-5 man disadvantage. The run is spotted by the player with the ball (right spotlight) who makes a perfect pass to Thill. He shoots…1–0. At no point did the move imply success. Individual creativity and quality overcame the disadvantages.
This is another reason why the home side were superior in the 1st Half (and in the match as a whole): they did find some man advantage situations, such as this ominous 4-v-4, which could be considered a 4-v-3 depending on how one views the trailing defender.
Ryabokon’s side with the ball now; the left-back is making a darting run, but it’s a 2-v-4 man disadvantage. Desna didn’t resolve these situations by any particular method in the 1st Half.
Things look promising for the visitors here, however. First, a 4-v-2 in midfield.
This morphs into a 4-v-4 that is particularly advantageous to Desna because one pillar of the attacking four, the left-fullback (blue arrow), is in loads of space and on the move.
The answer to “what happens next?” is that the ball is played behind the full-back, who demurs in his decision-making. The advantageous situation closes up and never returns. The 1st Half concludes a little later and Vorskla are deservedly on top.
The 2nd Half starts with a possession for Oleksandr Ryabokon’s team. There is a change to be noted: 5 at the back and 4 in midfield (5–4–1):
A set piece presets itself for the visitors. It’s from a long distance out and doesn’t look particularly promising.
The furthest runner at the far post runs straight for it; so does the second-furthest (notice the direction of the blue arrows). The nearest far post runner (spotlighted) moves towards the middle, the delivery is perfect and his defender (spotlighted) is not close enough. This Desna player (Gitchenko) unleashes a robust header to the near post that couldn’t be stopped. 1–1; Desna Chernihiv back in the saddle!
After a big Desna progressive pass on the far side (blue arrow)…
…the Desna player on the left side is impatient with the 3–v-4 man disadvantage and hoofs a cross field ball (dotted blue arrow) that is easily dealt with by Vorskla. Why not continue down the line (solid blue arrow) and see what develops? The Europa Conference League will be predominantly filled with decent teams and, because of decisions such as this one, these two fit the bill.
The 5–4–1 that Oleksandr Ryabokon instituted at half-time has a good shape to it without the ball in this image. It’s a low-ish medium block and there’s no place that Yuriy Maksimov’s charges can go with the ball. Post facto, the decision to switch to five-at-the-back makes sense: Desna are ahead of Vorskla on goal differential, so, if the score ends in a draw and the season ended yesterday, Desna would be in the Conference League. Still, it has to be said that, when the decision was made at 1–0 down, it made no sense at all.
Vorskla, on the prowl and in a more advanced position. There’s a semi-interesting 4-v-4 situation on the front end but, on the back side, it’s 5–v-4. Desna, in a low block, seemingly revealing their hand: keep everything in front of them and sign for the draw.
Then, the visitors push forward and are caught off guard. Vorskla Poltava are on the counterattack with a 5-v-4 man advantage. Could this break the deadlock?
As a byproduct of the 5-v-4, Vorskla get to the byline. A cross is launched into the area from the left flank. It’s 5–v-5, anything goes, but Ryabokon’s charges eventually deal with it and punt it away. A good counterattack late by Vorskla Poltava.
As if it weren’t clear before, it certainly is now: at this point in the match, it’s a low block-a-palooza for the visitors. Look how deep all 10 outfield players are in their own half!
Then, the match changes. For the challenge spotlighted below (not a penalty; just outside the area), Vorskla’s Yakubu get’s his second yellow. 10-v-11.
All of the sudden, Desna, still primarily defense-oriented, produced some extremely dangerous counterattacks.
Vorskla Poltava, down to 10 men, playing 3–4–2. They never sacrificed attack.
Foreshadowing? Why yes it is! Here comes *Vorskla* on the counterattack. It’s 4-v-5, but the home side is bringing heat down the left flank!
2-v-3 in the area. Kane passes it to league-leading goal scorer Vladyslav Kulach, who takes a shot but has it comfortably saved. What a let off for Desna!
That was the last bit of action in the match. Maksimov’s team, without circulating the ball well or creating favorable situations involving man advantages, used the counterattack and individual moments of brilliance to outplay a defensive Desna. Oleksandr Ryabokon’s side offered little to like in attack and should consider themselves lucky to get a draw. In fact their luck is double: not only did they not deserve the result they got in Poltava yesterday but they’re also in Europe and Vorskla are out. That is, for now. This batte should continue until the end of the season.