FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk have overcome an injury crisis and constantly upset the odds to reach their first European final – certainly not doing it the easy way.
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Two European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-finals in the 1980s had been FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's proudest continental achievement, but this season the Ukrainian side outdid themselves to reach the UEFA Europa League final – and Myron Markevych's team are ready to relieve Sevilla FC of the trophy in Warsaw.
Story of the season
Markevych took over from Juande Ramos in the summer and Dnipro, playing their home games in Kyiv, swiftly exited the UEFA Champions League in the third qualifying round. Pipping HNK Hajduk Split to the UEFA Europa league group stage, injury-hit Dnipro only picked up one point in their first three games but they rallied and beat AS Saint-Étienne to finish second. The coach had the team running like a well-oiled machine in the spring, knocking out Olympiacos FC, AFC Ajax, Club Brugge KV and SSC Napoli.
Record this season: P16 W7 D5 L4 F15 A11
Napoli were clear favourites to win the semi-final and indeed created a host of chances in both legs. Gonzalo Higuaín alone spurned three one-on-ones with Dnipro goalkeeper Denys Bonko in Naples and another in Kyiv. The Argentina forward could do no more than lift his hands in dismay after another brilliant save from the 27-year-old keeper.
Inspirational winger Yevhen Konoplyanka was usually kept closely marked by two or even three players but the 25-year-old was still able to conjure up several game-changing moments. Not least with his goal away to Ajax having already set up Roman Zozulya and then his cross headed in by Yevhen Seleznyov that proved decisive against Napoli in Kyiv.
Ex-FC Dynamo Kyiv trainee Yevhen Cheberyachko had a journeyman career before moving to Dnipro in 2009. The 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship runner-up was not an instant success but 2014/15 proved a watershed for the 31-year-old. His versatility was invaluable for depleted Dnipro at centre-back, holding midfield and in a more advanced role.
Only one of Dnipro's 16 games this season have resulted in a win or defeat by two goals or more, namely the 2-0 round of 32 first-leg victory against Olympiacos with which they began 2015. To put that in context, 202 of the 482 matches in the competition as a whole have ended with the teams two or more goals apart.
"We earned a place in the UEFA Champions League [qualifiers] last season, but the team have evolved since and I can see they are capable of achieving something big. I know these guys so I'm not surprised by what they do. They can work flat out and that's how you get the result. Their success is essential for the club, the city and the whole of Ukrainian football."
Juande Ramos, two-time UEFA Cup winner with Sevilla and Dnipro coach from 2010–14