Uncovering Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi

Cast your mind back to Atalanta’s third strike in their six-goal demolition of Brescia 10 days ago.

Ruslan Malinovskyi received the ball in the left hand channel of the Brescia half, some 35 yards from goal. The Ukrainian dropped the shoulder to sidestep Mattia Viviani, ran into a more central position, pulled back his traction engine of a left foot and unleashed a missile that flew into the bottom corner of Lorenzo Andrenacci’s goal.

It was yet another screamer for the Malinovskyi scrapbook. “I don’t have a bad left foot,” he joked in his first interview for Atalanta last summer. It’s safe to say that Malinovskyi was slightly understating things. Continue reading

Marko Arnautovic concludes West Ham’s UEFA Nations League involvement

Marko Arnautovic

The first ever round of UEFA Nations League fixtures have come to a close. There were some incredible score lines across the board as Spain beat Croatia 6-0, Switzerland won 6-0 against Iceland and Luxembourg had a 4-0 victory over Moldova. Of the many players involved in the competition, four of them were from West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski, Andriy Yarmolenko, Robert Snodgrass and Marko Arnautovic. They had varying levels of success though.

Of the four it is Yarmolenko who’s struggled most for the Hammers this season, as he hasn’t started a single Premier League match since joining from Borussia Dortmund. However, it is the Ukrainian winger who has had the most success during the international break. Ukraine were the only team in League B Group 1 to play twice; they’re also the only side to have any points, after winning both matches, with Yarmolenko central to their success.

In the opening fixture against Czech Republic, Patrick Schick put the Czechs ahead after just four minutes. It was Yarmolenko who led the Ukrainian charge with some dangerous balls into the box following that setback. He was involved when the men in yellow equalised as he dummied Marlos’ pass which went to Evgen Konoplyanka, who cut inside and fired the ball into the bottom corner. Yarmolenko was brought off in the 66th minute, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko. It was the Manchester City man who scored the winner in the dying moments of the match.

The second game of Ukraine’s Nations League campaign came at home against Slovakia. Once again Yarmolenko made the difference as he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 80th minute, despite Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka getting his hand to the ball.

Next up was Lukasz Fabianski, who beat Wojciech Szczesny to the starting spot in Poland’s goal for the tie against Italy. Poland took the lead in the 40th minute when Mateusz Klich dispossessed Jorginho near the edge of Italy’s box, offloaded the ball to Robert Lewandoski, who crossed it towards the back post where Piotr Zielinski was on hand to volley into the net.

As he has done for the Hammers throughout this season, Fabianski made a number of impressive saves in the game. However, after Jakub Blaszczykowski had fouled Federico Chiesa inside the box, there was nothing the keeper could do to stop Jorginho’s penalty as he was sent the wrong way; the game ended 1-1.

Robert Snodgrass was not originally part of Scotland’s squad, but was brought into the fold when West Bromwich Albion’s Matt Phillips withdrew through injury. Snodgrass is now getting plenty of time on the pitch at West Ham, but was left on the bench for the entirety of Scotland’s 2-0 win against Albania. It was an own goal from Berat Djimsiti and a 68th minute header from Steven Naismith which earned the Scots all three points.

Marko Arnautovic was the last of West Ham’s quartet to make an appearance in the Nations League, as his Austria side faced Bosnia & Herzegovina away from home. It was a tame affair for the majority of the game. Arnautovic gave Ibrahim Sehic his biggest test of the match with a curling effort from outside the box in the 14th minute, but the Büyüksehir Belediye Erzurumpsor and Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper was able to tip it over the bar. In the end, it was AS Roma’s Edin Dzeko who made the difference as he scored in the 78th minute to earn the home side a 1-0 win.

All four of the West Ham players will now be looking ahead to the Hammers’ next fixture, Sunday’s away fixture against Everton, alongside the rest of the squad.

Andriy Yarmolenko shows he’s ready to start matches

Andriy Yarmolenko

Andriy Yarmolenko showed that he’s ready to start matches in Ukraine’s first ever UEFA Nations League match tonight. The West Ham United winger played 66 minutes of his country’s 2-1 win against Czech Republic, before being replaced by Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Since moving to East London from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, Yarmolenko has had just one start, which came in the Hammers’ 3-1 Carabao Cup win against AFC Wimbledon, in which he played 89 minutes. A lack of match fitness was cited as the reason for him not starting in the league, after he picked up injuries to his thigh and hip during pre season.

The winger has come on as a substitute in each of West Ham’s league matches. He only played 24 minutes against Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth, following that up with just 16 against Arsenal. The fact that he played a full half against Wolverhampton Wanderers shows that he is potentially progressing and this performance for his country has done his chances of a starting spot at club level no harm.

However, things looked like they weren’t going to go the way of Yarmolenko and his fellow Ukrainians early on in Prague. Just four minutes into the match they had their first setback of the game. Roma and Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick got on the ball, drove at the Ukraine defence before firing the ball past Andrij Pyatov’s outstretched hand and into the roof of the net.

Yarmolenko was already showing the threat he possessed though. He was behind his side’s biggest chance of the early stages. He drifted past Jan Boril before sending the ball into Roman Yaremchuk’s path. The Gent striker was unable to convert the chance though, as he swiped at his shot and sent it wide.

He and his side took had taken hold of the match following Schick’s opener. They maintained pressure for the majority of the first half, which paid off before the break, with Yarmolenko involved. One minute into injury time Shakhtar Donetsk’s Marlos ran into the box with the ball. He played the ball to Yarmolenko, who had overlapped him, but the West Ham winger allowed it to run through his legs and into the path of his fellow winger Evgen Konoplyanka. The Schalke man cut inside Pavel Kaderabek and smashed the ball into the near corner.

Having played a role in his side’s first goal, the 28-year-old almost had one of his own in the second half. With the ball at his feet, Yarmolenko flip-flapped the ball past Jakub Brabec. He then sent a shot destined for the far corner, but Sevilla’s Czech stopper Tomas Vaclik made a fingertip save to send it narrowly past the post.

Yarmolenko had a few more moments in the second half and will have left the field relatively happy with his performance. It was his replacement, Zinchenko, who won the game for Ukraine in the 93rd minute, just seconds before the final whistle. The Czech defence failed to deal with a cross which had been whipped into the box. Having bounced around, the ball landed at the 21-year-old’s feet, with Zinchenko stepping up to stab it into the net, sending the travelling supporters into jubilant celebrations.

Following their victory, Ukraine will face Slovakia at home on Sunday in their next test. Once that match has come to an end, Yarmolenko will head back to East London to help West Ham earn their first Premier League points of the season. With tough fixtures coming up the Hammers will need all of their players available. Yarmolenko’s performance tonight shows that if needed he is ready to come in against Everton and play his part from the start.


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