Dnipro tames Paranaense to win Nagjee Cup

In a final between two Under-21 sides that was watched by over 40,000, the Ukrainians beat Atletico Paranaense 3-0 at the Corporation Stadium on Sunday night.

FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk with the Nagjee Trophy at the Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode.   -  S RAMESH KURUP

Under a full moon, in front of a full house, the young men from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk of Ukraine showed for one last time that nobody could stop them. Not even a bunch of talented, spirited Brazilians.

Dnipro is indeed a most deserving champion at the Mahindra & Mahindra Sait Nagjee international tournament. In a final between two Under-21 sides that was watched by over 40,000, the Ukrainians beat Atletico Paranaense 3-0 at the Corporation Stadium on Sunday night.

The match may not have been as one-sided as the score-line might suggest, but it was one long struggle for the Brazilians against a rival that apparently has no weakness. Dnipro has the best defence of all the eight teams in the tournament, while its attack is as good as any. Its two goalkeepers, Denys Shelikhov and Ihor Vartsaba, did not concede a single goal in 480 minutes (not counting the injury time); keeping a clean for five games is no small achievement.

Shelikhov, who kept the goal on this night, didn’t have too many anxious moments; once again, his job was made easier, once again, by his mates in the defence. Andre Alfredo, Gerson da Silva Junior and Yago da Silva did make a few attempts to break through and spoil Dnipro’s remarkable record, to no avail, of course.

It was the Ukrainians who showed more urgency to press forward right from the beginning, with Denys Balaniuk, Yurii Vakulko, Maksym Lunov and Vasyliev Kochergin all putting pressure on the Brazilian defence. In the 40th minute, they took the lead, through Ihor Kohut.

It came off a free-kick taken by Vakulko, some 25 yards from the goal. It was headed first by Balaniuuk before Kohut took advantage of the melee near the goal-line and managed to the get the ball in.

Only that goal separated the two teams at the interval.

On resumption, Paranaense did try to hit back, but its hopes were destroyed when it went 0-2 down in the 62nd minute. Balaniuk showed excellent nerves to put the ball gently past the hapless Paranaense custodian Lucas Ferriera from inside the box, after getting a fine assist through the centre from Kochergin.

Then Valkulko made it 3-0 in the 86th minute, with considerable help from the Paranaense defender Mauricio Santos’s deflection. This was clearly Dnipro’s night.

Just as it was Dnipro’s tournament.

Result

Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3 (Ihor Kohut 40, Denys Balaniuk 62, Yurii Vakulko 86) bt Atletico Paranaense 0.

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