Euro 2004 qualifier
Ukraine 2 - Spain 2
Nesmachniy, Kormiltsev (Kalinichenko 62'), Fedorov, Dmytrulin; Voronin, Husin,
Tymoschuk, Vorobey; Shevchenko (Serebrennikov 66'), Horshkov. 4-4-2.
Group 6 table:
From our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic.
Hello again everyone, your international reports are back from Mallorca and raring to go. Sorry about missing out on the last report, but there was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity with the local constabulary on the island (they mistook us for a couple of drunks - really!) and it took a day or so to sort out. Anyway the judge let us off with a small fine. So now it is for real, the Euro 2004 competition is back, but we are advised against going to the Ukraine for security reasons. A real pity, as Goran has been practising his Russian dancing as someone told him in a bar that that is the best way to impress the girls over there. On hindsight though it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway, as Goran now has his knees in plaster after an over-strenuous work out.
So it's on to Goran's flat with a few friends and some six packs to watch the game on TV. Iñaki Sáez is gradually moving away from his initial thinking to put out a team of youngsters planning for the future, maybe because he realizes that the fans will not wait that long for success. Valerón is back, although not in the line up as he probably won't last 90 minutes yet, and Joaquín loses his place to Etxeberría, who really isn't that old but looks it alongside the rest of the babes in arms. The problems though are at the back, and with Puyol injured and Helguera suspended, and César and Marchena get the nod. Aranzábal returns at left back, more as a prize for Real Sociedad's season than anything else, and Javi Navarro is called up to the squad for the first time as a recognition of Sevilla's good defensive work.
Ukraine are no push over though, and to make matters worse, looking at the state of the pitch, there is also the danger of tripping over a giant potato. At least it looks as if that was what was planted in the ground, which is we suppose how the locals manage to make ends meet when they are not playing football here. The home side boys are more used to this than our lot, who will not normally step on the pitch if it has a bump on it, and we find ourselves behind early on when Casillas and Michel Salgado, obviously mesmerized by a particularly rare species of worm or a funny shaped potato or something, let Shevchenko's cross between them for Voronin to score.
We are hoping for a reaction, but other than a shot from Guti which is deflected over the bar we hardly get a sight at goal in the rest of the first half. There is a long queue for the gents at the break, but I get back just in time to see Raúl and then Guti have a crack at goal. But it isn't working, Shevchenko almost scores with a bending free kick from wide on the left, and we are relieved to see Valerón warming up. He comes on together with Xavi for Guti and Albelda, and now there is a bit more of an idea. Time is running out though, and Sáez plays his last card, Diego Tristán.
Unfortunately for me, Goran asks me to go and get him a refill as his knees are hurting, and while I am in the kitchen there is a big roar. I get back quickly to see the replay, and Tristán shot has been deflected off a defender - surely it is the keeper's ball - but no, the worm pops his head up again (so we surmise) and while Schovkovskiy is distracted by it the captain is there to force the ball in to the net.
A draw is a good result, but in the excitement I see that Goran has spilt his drink all over me and I go to the bathroom to clean up. Another roar! In a state of disarray I return to the living room and Etxeberría has done it, getting a pass from Baraja and beating the keeper again. And so we celebrate, carefully this time, but our cheers are cut short as Horshkov hits a screamer of a volley from Husin's cross and we are back to a draw. True at half time we would gladly have settled for a point, and the result sets us up to win the group, but it does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Anyway, I am off to the dry cleaners, and Goran has to spend a bit of time at the physio's to get back in shape for the trip to León next Wednesday. I wonder what the dance speciality is in Armenia?