Manuel Veth –
Shakhtar Donetsk have won the derby in exile against city rivals Olimpik Donetsk. Both teams remain in exile from their hometown Donetsk due to the continued volatile security situation in the Donbass. While Shakhtar have recently moved to Kharkiv, Olimpik play their “home” games at the Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium in Kyiv.
For a long time, Olimpik Donetsk was actually the third team in the city of Donetsk. But, with Metalurh Donetsk going bankrupt in 2015, and the team ultimately being moved to Dnipro (formerly known as Dnipropetrovsk) where the team plays as Stal Kamianske, Olimpik became Shakhtar’s only city rival.
Olimpik have never played a derby against Shakhtar in Donetsk
Founded in 2001, Olimpik was not promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League until 2014 and, as a result, the city derby against Shakhtar has never been played in the city of Donetsk proper. With all those circumstances in mind it is, therefore, hard to label the meeting between the two clubs as a proper rivalry.
As a result, it was not surprising that just a few hundred people showed up to see the game at the Mariinsky Park in Kyiv, where the stadium is located. The official homepage of the Ukrainian Premier League would later state that 1950 people attended the game but, given that even the main stand was mostly empty, it is difficult to be confident that those numbers are accurate.
The numbers aside, this was actually a game that had a lot on the line. While Shakhtar were already more or less confirmed as the 2016-17 Ukrainian Premier League champion—they carried an eleven point gap into this matchday—Olimpik are playing to finish the Championship stage in fourth place, which would qualify them for the third qualifying round of the Europa League next season.
Shakhtar went into this match having lost their first game of the season on matchday 24 against Chornomorets Odesa. Olimpik, meanwhile, lost 4-0 to their current city rivals, Dynamo Kyiv, on matchday 24 and, therefore, wanted to make the most out of a stumble in Shakhtar’s season by collecting some much needed points in the Europa League race.
Shakhtar dominated their city rivals
Any hope that Shakhtar would stumble again and perhaps open up the title race, was quickly diminished, however, when Taison scored in the seventh minute of the game with a wonderful header that lopped the goalkeeper. Then, in the 36th minute, Bernard decided the game when he broke away one on one against the goalkeeper, and the Brazilian made no mistake scoring from close range.
In the second half, Viktor Kovalenko and Facundo Ferreyra added two more goals for a convincing 4-0 victory for Shakhtar Donetsk over their city rivals. The result means that with just four games left in the championship round, Shakhtar Donetsk could claim the Ukrainian championship with a victory over Dynamo Kyiv on April 21.
In fact, the game at the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex in Kyiv will be the main event of Ukrainian football this week. Dynamo kept their minimum title chance alive this weekend with a 1-0 victory over third-placed Zorya Luhansk, which means that Dynamo need just one more point in order to secure their Champions League qualification spot. A Dynamo victory on Friday over Shakhtar Donetsk would likely only delay Shakhtar’s title celebrations, but at least it would ensure that the Miners will not win the title in the their biggest rival’s stadium.
Further down the table, Olimpik’s two defeats against Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk have meant that the race for fourth place is wide open. Olimpik now have 35 points, and FC Oleksandriya, and Chornomorets Odesa, who are both on 34 points, follow them closely.
Ukrainian Premier League Standings – Championship
Ukrainian Premier League – Relegation Zone
Ukrainian Premier League – Highlights
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.