The ex-for­ward of the Ukrain­ian nation­al team speaks about the match between Shakhtar and Mar­seille in the Europa League play­offs

The Ukrain­ian club held its first offi­cial match in 2024. Donet­sk Min­er played in Ham­burg, Ger­many first play-off match for the right to reach the 1/8 finals of the Europa League. Duel Shakhtar – Mar­seille end­ed in a draw – 2:2. All the most sig­nif­i­cant moments match Shakhtar – Mar­seille dis­cussed with the famous for­mer foot­ball play­er Gornyakov Andrey Voroby­om.

See also: Shakhtar — Mar­seille. Video review of the match for Feb­ru­ary 15

— The foot­ball sea­son in our coun­try is open. Shakhtar vs Mar­seille in the Europa League, and not for the first time. What emo­tions did this fight leave you with?

This meet­ing left mixed emo­tions. The fight was divid­ed into episodes, in the end, I liked the result. But I also have a lot of ques­tions for the play­ers. As for the favorite of this pair, every­thing is the same as before – 50% to 50%. Briefly about the vis­it­ing team, it didn’t sur­prise me at all. Shakhtar has every chance to make it to the next round. That’s it in short.

Read also: Pusic: The feel­ing is twofold. I’m very pleased with how we played, but I think we deserved more

- Now let’s talk in more detail. Did Shakhtar’s Turk­ish train­ing camp give you any food for thought?

— Train­ing camps are always quite a bur­den. It’s quite dif­fi­cult for foot­ball play­ers dur­ing this peri­od of time. We know that the Min­ers have signed two tal­ents from Brazil. The coach­ing staff always tries to lay the foun­da­tion of phys­i­cal train­ing and devel­op team inter­ac­tions dur­ing train­ing camps. You can look at var­i­ous game schemes in spar­ring. But that’s all in the past – the offi­cial match­es will show how the team spent this month in Turkey.

Read also: Ukraine has increased the gap behind Greece and Israel in the UEFA rank­ings. But she retained the 18th posi­tion

— Shakhtar’s start­ing line-up was sur­pris­ing. Here is the appear­ance of Stepa­nenko in the start, who almost did not play at the train­ing camp due to injury, and the absence of Kevin, who was played out in spar­ring. Did any­thing sur­prise you?

— Even before the game with Mar­seille, they asked me what start­ing line-up Pusic would field. I replied that he would bet on proven play­ers. That’s basi­cal­ly what hap­pened. Accord­ing to Stepa­nenko, yes, he missed a lot at the train­ing camp, but the fact that he is a real fight­er, an expe­ri­enced foot­ball play­er, leader and cap­tain of the team speaks in his favor. There are few such guys in today’s Shakhtar. I will name only Rak­it­sky, Chi­grin­sky and Matvienko. The team is based on them. Taras Stepa­nenko has the most impor­tant role — he does not dis­dain rough work. There is no oth­er such play­er in the orange-and-blacks now. Per­haps in the future, Egor Naza­ri­na will be able to replace Taras, but we will see about that. And Kevin has only been on the team for a month…

— The first half of the report­ing match was very cau­tious, with almost no chances. Why?

- All this was expect­ed. For Donet­sk Shakhtar this is only the first offi­cial game. The guys are just get­ting into the sea­son. And Mar­cel is not hav­ing the best stage. It is clear that the team play­ers are not in opti­mal shape. In their cham­pi­onship they are in 8th place, they had a five-match win­less streak. To some extent, they took advan­tage of the indi­vid­ual mis­takes of the Ukrain­ian team play­ers. But all this hap­pened in the sec­ond half.

— What changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly on the field in the sec­ond half, so that the goals start­ed pour­ing in like from a cor­nu­copia?

— I wouldn’t say that any­thing has changed in the tac­ti­cal for­ma­tion of teams. And the coach­es didn’t make any sub­sti­tu­tions until the 72nd minute. Yes, the guests had a chance when, in the 58th minute, Luis Enrique’s head­er from the goal line missed the tar­get. And every­one was so care­ful. Then the goals hap­pened due to indi­vid­ual mis­takes by the defen­sive play­ers. At first, Azarov was unable to resist his oppo­nent on the flank, and then a pass was made to Aubameyang.

— Every­one knew that Gabon nation­al team play­er Aubameyang was the most goal-scor­ing play­er in Mar­seille, but they couldn’t cope with him — he has a goal and an assist to his cred­it. Is he that strong?

— In Ham­burg, Aubameyang did not look much stronger than any­one else. Of course, indi­vid­u­al­ly, the Gabonese is strong. He has an excel­lent scor­ing instinct. He needs to get involved in 2–3 episodes and he will solve every­thing. This speaks to his strengths. Shakhtar’s defend­ers did­n’t play very close­ly with him. And in the 90th minute he very eas­i­ly escaped from Zubkov and Goc­holeishvili. Then pass from him to Ndi­aye and get the sec­ond ball.

— How did Shakhtar man­age to win back so quick­ly?

“These goals once again empha­sized that Shakhtar’s play­ers have char­ac­ter. They did not give up and imme­di­ate­ly went on the attack. You need to put pres­sure on your oppo­nent all the time. Then there is a chance that he will make a mis­take. This is what hap­pened with Matvienko’s goal. It was clear that even if we missed goals, our guys weren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ried.

— What opin­ion do you have about the French club?

“I’m speak­ing sin­cere­ly – Mar­cel didn’t catch my atten­tion. They did­n’t have any spe­cial design. Tac­ti­cal­ly, the team did not show any spe­cial fea­tures. Yes, there are indi­vid­u­al­ly strong foot­ball play­ers. Gen­naro Gat­tuso is a novice coach, he is only at the begin­ning of his career. While he lacks expe­ri­ence, he can­not rebuild the team’s play dur­ing the match. Mar­seille’s per­for­mance and results in the French Cham­pi­onship only high­light this.

— Did Shakhtar sur­prise you? How did the Ukrain­ian cham­pi­on act tac­ti­cal­ly?

— The arrange­ment of the play­ers of the Donet­sk team was the same as in the fall. The game of the Ukrain­ian team in this match was a lit­tle chaot­ic. Maybe our guys have adapt­ed to Marseille’s scheme. I often saw that when Kono­plya and Azarov ran for­ward, Stepa­nenko sat low­er and was the third cen­tral defend­er. We saw that Efim Kono­plya went for­ward sev­er­al times and was in the posi­tion of nine, which we had not seen before. At these moments, Bon­darenko took the place of the right defend­er. But we didn’t see any new ideas in the attack. But this is just the first fight.

Eguinal­do, Get­ty Images

— How do you like the per­for­mance of 19-year-old Eguinal­do, who sim­ply tor­ment­ed the Mar­seille defend­ers with his bursts? And it was he who scored the min­ers’ sec­ond goal…

— In the Ukrain­ian Pre­mier League, Eguinal­do played in only 5 match­es and he played 112 min­utes in them. I wouldn’t say that he had a blast in Ham­burg, but the Brazil­ian got a good score. I don’t think Eguinal­do is the strongest play­er in this match, but he looked good. And yet it is too ear­ly to talk about him in enthu­si­as­tic terms. If he looks at this lev­el for sev­er­al games in a row, then we’ll talk about him.

Read also: Eguinal­do’s goal against Mar­seille is eli­gi­ble for the Europa League Goal of the Week award

— How did the game turn out for the min­ers’ leader Geor­gy Sudakov? They wrote and talked about him all win­ter…

“George didn’t burn out, but he act­ed very care­ful­ly. I think that all this hype is putting pres­sure on him, there are a lot of rumors and spec­u­la­tion around him. This weight crushed him a lit­tle. It’s not easy to play under such pres­sure, but you need to be able to over­come it. Over­all, we saw a lack­lus­ter per­for­mance from Sudakov against Mar­seille. The min­ers’ play­mak­er made few mis­takes, but in the fall he looked much stronger.

— Who, in your opin­ion, was Shakhtar’s best play­er of the match?

— I won’t name just one. That evening, Donet­sk Shakhtar did not have a clear leader. The team spir­it has not dis­ap­peared any­where. And is it impor­tant.

— Already in injury time, Valery Bon­dar was warned. Now he will miss the return match due to too many mus­tard plas­ters. Who will replace him in the return leg at the Velo­drome?

- Old Rak­it­sky. Yaroslav is a Donet­sk guy with char­ac­ter. Yes, his speed is not the same, but he is very expe­ri­enced. Rak­it­sky skill­ful­ly starts attacks and reads the game well.

— Our fans scold the Bel­gian ref­er­ee Eric Lam­brechts. Basi­cal­ly it all comes down to an episode that hap­pened in the 27th minute when Eguinal­do scored a goal. But, after the referee’s whis­tle, which inter­rupt­ed the sharp attack of the Donet­sk team…

- Yes, the ref­er­ee whis­tled ahead of time, but who among us is not mis­tak­en? We are all peo­ple, not robots. And so, I didn’t see any obvi­ous mis­takes on his part. The judg­ing was nor­mal.

— What are the teams’ chances of reach­ing the 1/8 finals of the Europa League?

- The chances are absolute­ly equal. Away goals have not giv­en an advan­tage for a long time. The min­er plays all his match­es away from home, and I think he is used to it. Yes, in Mar­seille the hosts will have crazy sup­port from their fans. It is clear that Mar­seille’s play­ers will rush to attack from the first min­utes. It will be impor­tant for the play­ers of our team to hold back the start­ing onslaught of the oppo­nent. For about 15–20 min­utes the French will rush head­long. Well, then we will find our moment and score, I hope. I saw their recent match with Metz, and they make mis­takes at home. This is not the right team not to pass them.