We have what we have, but the shootout in Greece showed that Dnipro-1 could have achieved a different result in the match against Panathinaikos.
Yes, the Greek team is experienced and has great players in its lineup such as Sporar, Djuricic, Verbić, and Bernard. However, the first match in Kosice turned out to be fateful in this confrontation, where the sports club simply lacked European Cup experience.
Last week, the Dnipro team lost to Greek Panathinaikos 1-3. Few believed that the team was capable of turning the tide of the confrontation. In Greece, where the support of the local stands is enormous and where the Greeks usually play successfully, the success of Dnipro-1 was spoken of with pessimism. However, the coaching staff of our team and the players themselves had a different opinion. The team made significant changes to the starting lineup compared to the first match. First of all, it is the return of their best assistant, Pikhalenko, who has recovered from his injury. There were also dramatic changes in the defense: Kaplienko, Adamiuk, and Pasich joined Sarapiy. Instead of young Kinareikin, the experienced Volynets came on in goal.
However, it was not without difficulties. Just like in the first game, the sports club team conceded quite quickly. In the 15th minute, goalkeeper Volynets and defender Adamiuk had a disagreement. For such negligence, Sporar punished the guests with a goal. But Dnipro-1 was motivated by Dobvyk’s fantastic solo pass. He dealt with several Panathinaikos defenders at once and restored parity. However, the most important thing was that the team acted more aggressively, with desire and even better than the Greeks in some moments.
An episode in the 34th minute deserved special attention in the first half, when Volynets saved the team by momentarily outrunning Palacios, who was going one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The Argentine, trying to jump over Yevhen, hit him in the head with his knee. As a result, the goalkeeper was taken off the field by medics. He suffered a concussion and a cut, while18-year-old Kinareikin finished the match in goal.
However, even this series of unpleasant episodes did not break Dnipro-1. On the contrary, in the second half, the team had several good chances from the start. And in the 54th minute, the intrigue even returned when Miroshnichenko’s cross was successfully closed by Sarapiy. The Ukrainian team only had to score one goal to take the game to overtime. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Midway through the second half, the game again tilted in Panathinaikos’ favour. First, Sporran equalized. Then there was an episode that essentially broke the entire course of the match. Dnipro-1 was left in the minority: substitute Tanchyk flew into the opponent’s leg, for which he received a straight red card. Did the referee do the right thing? The question remains, because during the match, the Greeks repeatedly allowed rudeness and the referee allowed the game to continue. In such a situation, Panathinaikos managed to deal with Dnipro-1’s efforts to change the situation. And the final whistle of the referee recorded a 2-2 shootout.
Summarizing the overall confrontation against Panathinaikos, it seems that Oleksandr Kucher’s team constantly had to fight not only the opponent, but also the circumstances. In the first game, injuries and lack of experience did not allow them to get a better result. Whereas in Athens, there was a pre-match poisoning of Dnipro-1 players (which may yet be continued in the form of an appeal) and an ambiguous decision by the referee that affected the outcome of the match. Nevertheless, Dnipro-1 leaves the Champions League with its head held high: the tournament debutant gave a worthy fight to the titled Greek team.
Oleksandr Kucher’s men, having completed their Champions League appearances, will now try to compete for another European cup, the Europa League. Soon, on August 10 and 17, Dnipro 1 will face Czech vice-champion Slavia from Prague in the third round of qualifying. And hopefully the story will have a positive ending.