It was not made easy for Dynamo Kyiv on their UEFA Youth League debut this season.
Not only did the UEFA Champions League group draw, which also applied to this competition, ensure Dynamo's Under-19s would take on UEFA Youth League holders Chelsea, they also ended up against last season's quarter-finalists Porto, both squads boasting several veterans of their impressive 2014/15 campaigns.
Indeed, Chelsea are the only team to have already won their group, and earned an automatic round of 16 place, with a game to spare, twice beating Dynamo. But the Ukrainian representatives opened with a 2-1 defeat of Porto, and after winning 1-0 in Portugal a fortnight ago, know a home victory against eliminated Maccabi Tel-Aviv on Wednesday would take them into the play-offs.
Dynamo captain Pavlo Lukyanchuk marshalled the defence that kept out Porto and will lead out the team against Maccabi fresh from receiving the 2014/15 UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals Respect Fair Play prize on behalf of the Ukraine squad in Nyon last week. Also part of the Ukraine team at the 2014 U19 and 2013 U17 finals, Lukyanchuk spoke to UEFA.com.
On the game against Maccabi and the UEFA Youth League …
We are thinking only about victory. We have already put our win against Porto behind us, but that result is confirmation of our ability. This is a very important competition for me. This tournament is one in which you can make your name in Europe.
On playing Porto and Chelsea …
Against Porto we demonstrated that we had a competitive team that could compete at the top level. As for Chelsea, it was a great experience playing against such a strong team. I found it very interesting playing against players like that – you can compare yourself to those at that standard, as well as demonstrating what you can do at that level.
On Ukraine's U19 Respect Fair Play prize …
We were very happy to qualify for the championship and play in the finals. It is the first time we have received the Fair Play prize. It is an honour for the team. We demonstrated fair play and respect for our opponents and the officials. Of course, the only award on our mind was first place, but we did not achieve that. The Fair Play prize is like a bonus.
On his final tournament experience …
It was a great experience playing at that level. Hopefully it will be a good thing for the next generation of players to have had that experience. It was my second final tournament after Hungary in 2014. It is my target naturally to make the U21 finals in order to improve.
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