Taras Stepanenko: We always have tough, manly encounters with Dynamo
The Pitmen's midfielder has given his take on the upcoming Ukrainian Cup final.
- Taras, on June 4, the NSC Olympiyskyi will play host to the 2014/15 Ukrainian Cup final. And again, in the final match for the trophy, the biggest archrivals in the Ukrainian football of the recent decades – Dynamo and Shakhtar – are locking horns. What do you feel ahead of this encounter?
- We haven’t managed to become the title holders this season, so we really want to win the Cup. It will be a vitally important match for us, especially against Dynamo, the archrivals. We always have some tough, manly encounters with them. I think the heat will be intense. We will be responsibly preparing for this meeting, just as Dynamo will do.
- For five consecutive years, the Pitmen claimed the Ukrainian League title, they also lifted the Cup three times in a row, but last season they lost to Dynamo in the domestic Cup final, while this season they have also given way to Dynamo in the league race. Why did it happen?
- In last season’s Cup final, we conceded goals following two set pieces. That’s Dynamo’s trump card. I cannot say that we lost due to our performance. In the first half of the season, we lost to Dynamo narrowly, having just ten men. Basically, the games were even. In such games, a single chance decides everything. It's hard to say why it happened. Probably, Dynamo wanted to win that Cup more. In the league, once again, just one set piece decided everything, when we were short-handed.
- If we remember the Shakhtar vs Dynamo encounter in last season’s Ukrainian Cup final, what has changed in both sides’ performance since then?
- The Kyiv side have started playing in a more organized and disciplined way. Each player knows what to do on the field. It is noticeable that Serhiy Rebrov succeeded in getting the message across to the guys. They feel his trust, the coach brings in a large number of young players. Those play who want it more, who better performs both in training and in matches. Every football player, when taking to the pitch, proves something to the coach and wants to be better than his competitors. It helps the team to achieve results.
- Can we assume that Shakhtar will be more motivated than Dynamo in the upcoming final, given the fact of the lost league title?
- I do not know how Dynamo will be preparing for it, but we will certainly be very motivated. This season, this trophy is extremely important for us.
- On their way this season, Shakhtar met with Obolon-Brovar, Poltava, Metalist and Dnipro. Kharkiv are no longer a formidable force in domestic football, while Dnipro pretty much got on your nerves. What can you say about the competiiton’s semi-finalists?
- Dnipro features many players of Ukraine national team, they have a great team and strong performers. Compared to us, they play a bit different football, more defensive and disciplined one, they make superb running transitions to counterattacks, they are good at set play. That’s right that they caused us a lot of problems. Basically, our encounters with them were even. We can remember how Andriy Pyatov parried away a penalty shot in Dnipropetrovsk, which gave us certain advantage. I wish we had more such games. Both fans and football players enjoy them. Both passions and emotions were present. Through those encounters, both the league and cup level improves.
- What Ukrainian Cup win is the most valuable to you?
- It’s hard to say. When the team wins a trophy – that’s very nice and cool. All victories are equally important to me.
- Considering that the decisive match in the domestic Cup title race is to be held at Olympiyskyi in Kyiv, Dynamo will have a trump card up their sleeve - the 12th man in the stands. What can Shakhtar match against their opponents to regain the Ukrainian Cup title holders status?
- We are used to playing the games away. In fact, they actually only once properly supported us this season - when we played at the Obolon-Arena against Illichivets. But in general, we enjoy no special support. There is nothing special about the fact that the game will take place at Olympiyskyi. On the contrary, our team likes to be pressured. This encourages the players. Olympiyskyi is a good stadium. Beisides, we are also based in Kyiv, so there’s nothing difficult for us. Most importantly, the referee who is in charge of the game, shouldn’t fail to perform his duties properly, also coping with the crowd pressure, being in control of the game and the passions.