FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk gave a disciplined tactical performance to claim a 2-0 win over NK Dinamo Zagreb in their UEFA Cup second round first-leg match at the Maksimir stadium. The Ukrainian side twice scored through well-worked counterattacks – in the first half through Oleg Venhlinskyy, and in the closing stages through Roman Maksymyuk – to take a big step towards the third round.
Dnipro coach Yevgen Kucherevskyy was delighted at the way his plan had worked. "We did a lot of preparation for this game," he said. "We watched all of their UEFA Cup games so far this season and learned how to play against them. We played very well today and, thanks to our counterattacking, were the better team."
Dinamo started the game by pushing forward in numbers, and created their first chance after a matter of seconds. Skilful playmaker Niko Kranjcar picked up the ball on the edge of the box and drove at goal but Dnipro goalkeeper Artem Kuslii managed to block before the rebound was cleared to safety.
Despite their bright opening, Dinamo found themselves behind after just eight minutes. Serhiy Nazarenko made a positive run down the centre and looked to pick out the unmarked Andriy Rusol on the right edge of the box. Dino Drpic managed to intercept, but the ball fell to Venhlinskyy, whose low drive went in off goalkeeper Ivan Turina.
Dnipro could have doubled the lead on nine minutes, were it not for Turina's heroics. The Dinamo goalkeeper made three outstanding saves in a row to deny first Olexandr Rykun, then Ruslan Kostyshyn, before clinging on to Venhlinskyy's goal-bound effort.
Dnipro's gameplan was to allow their hosts to pour forward, before hitting them with a series of counterattacks that Dinamo’s back-three could not cope with. Venhlinskyy and Rykun both had good chances to extend the lead, but Dnipro went into the break with just a one-goal advantage.
Dinamo coach Nikola Jurcevic made a change at half-time, bringing on Hrvoje Strok for Damir Krznar - and the diminutive midfield player caused Dnipro problems throughout the second half, going close with two shots from the edge of the area. Artem Kuslii was inspired in the Dnipro goal and saved all that was thrown at him. And when Kranjcar was given a clear chance, he shot well over from just ten metres.
Dinamo lost concentration in the closing stages though, and Dnipro punished them with a swift counterattack and an invaluable second away goal. Roman Maksymyuk, the fleet-footed Dnipro left winger, sprung the offside trap before sprinting towards goal. As Turina came out to block, Maksymyuk slotted it between his legs.
Dinamo substitute Eduardo da Silva could have salvaged something with a well-struck volley, before Maksymyuk almost put the tie beyond reach. He again went one-on-one with Turina, but this time the goalkeeper was equal to it. It will now be an uphill battle for Dinamo to reach the third round of this tournament when they meet again in three weeks' time.