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Dynamo fire on all cylinders

Published: Friday 1 October 2004, 12.00CET
FC Dynamo Kyiv have risen above some giant opponents to lead UEFA Champions League Group B.
Published: Friday 1 October 2004, 12.00CET

Dynamo fire on all cylinders

FC Dynamo Kyiv have risen above some giant opponents to lead UEFA Champions League Group B.
By Igor Linnyk
If in August anyone had predicted that FC Dynamo Kyiv would top UEFA Champions League Group B after two matches, they would have been laughed out of the Ukrainian capital.

Bad defeat
After all, in the home leg of their third qualifying round tie, Olexiy Mykhalichenko's had been lucky to get away with a 2-1 defeat against Turkish side Trabzonspor; any hopes of a successful European campaign to come seemed optimistic at best.

Szabo returns
However, salvation was to come within one day of that loss, as the club dispensed with Mykhalichenko and replaced him with a man who - as a coach and a player - had always proved an inspiration to Dynamo. And since giving up his role as club vice-president, Joszef Szabo has been doing very well indeed.

Great result
Tuesday's 4-2 mauling of Bayer 04 Leverkusen lifted Dynamo above the German side, AS Roma and Real Madrid CF into pole position in Group B. Two goals apiece from Diogo Rincón and Romanian Florian Cernat helped Dynamo tame a lively German side who had given Madrid a 3-0 drubbing on Matchday 1.

'Attacking performance'
"We made mistakes in defence, especially in the centre, but all those mistakes were compensated by an outstanding attacking performance from the whole team," said Szabo. "We should have scored more than just four goals. Leverkusen were lucky to get away so lightly."

Winning run
The win was the culmination of an excellent period for Dynamo. Since the ethnic Hungarian returned to the dug-out, his side have won seven games in succession - including a 2-0 win at Trabzonspor - and for some, Szabo's style harks back to that of his old friend, Ukrainian coaching legend Valeriy Lobanovskiy.

Dynamo hero
Szabo was one of the stars of the 1960s Dynamo side which broke Moscow's grip on the Soviet Supreme league, and a bronze medallist with the Soviet Union at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was to become a major figure at the club again.

Shevchenko's mentor
Appointed as head coach in 1993, Szabo's side survived a season of ignominy when they were banned from European competition for the 1995/96 season. However, he dedicated himself to nurturing great players like Andriy Shevchenko who would shine under Lobanovskiy while Szabo moved on to coach the national team.

Scouting role
Szabo spent four years as coach of Ukraine before returning to Dynamo to take charge of the scouting department signing the likes of Goran Gavrancic, Rincón, Kleber, Jerko Leko, Goran Sablic, Tiberiu Ghioane, Cernat, Ayila Yussuf and Georgi Peev. All are now important members of his team.

Future focus
However, as Dynamo compete in their eighth consecutive group stage campaign, the 64-year-old coach has made it clear that foreign signings are no longer the priority for the club. "Our main plan now is to have a great but local team," he said. "If we do not, we will have nothing for the future, and no national team."

Popular team
Ukrainians remain something of a rarity in the current Dynamo team, but that has not stopped fans from flocking to see Szabo's side. The Valeriy Lobanovskiy stadium has been full for Dynamo's two European fixtures so far, and the club can expect even more international attention as they face Madrid in their next two Champions League games.

Giant leap
A win in either would see them take a giant leap towards the knockout stages. Such an achievement might have seemed improbable in August but no one is laughing at Dynamo now.

Last updated: 31/01/12 10.52CET

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