Dynamo Kiev and their memorable European adventures of 98 and 99 

Not many people will argue that the UEFA Champions League is world football's ultimate club competition. However, it does have it's pitfalls.


One topical issue that its detractors point too is how it's almost always the same handful of clubs who go on to lift the trophy.


That's why its refreshing to see unfancied sides make a name for themselves and compete with the big boys.


One club who falls into this category is Ukraine's Dynamo Kiev and specifically their fantastic campaigns in 1998 and 1999.


In 1997/98, Dynamo Kiev's group contained PSV Eindhoven, Newcastle United and world powerhouse Barcelona. Just being able to put in respectable performances would have been a success.


But the Ukrainian's did more than just compete.


Coached by the legendary Valeriy Lobanovksy, Dynamo Kiev surprised many by finishing top of their group. Their memorable group stage debut included two victories over Spanish giant Barcelona which will live long in the memory of Kiev supporters.


The first match over the Catalans was a dominant 3-0 victory at home. Then in the reverse fixture on matchday 4, Lobanovksy's side proved it was no fluke by thrashing Barcelona 4-0 at the Camp Nou. This match and tournament saw the emergence of future Ukrainian star Andriy Shevchenko, who helped himself to a memorable hat-trick.


After defying the odds and finishing first in their group, Kiev found themselves up against Italian giants Juventus in the quarterfinals. An encouraging 1-1 1st leg draw away from home gave Lobanovksy's squad hope of another upset heading into the return leg at home. However the experience and quality of the Bianconeri was too much as Juve ran out 4-1 winners on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.


Nevertheless, the campaign was viewed as a huge success for Dynamo Kiev and Ukrainian football.


On to the 1998/99 season and Lobanovsky's team again topped their group for a 2nd straight campaign. Amongst the scalps were Greece's Panathinaikos, French side Lens and group favourites Arsenal.


In the final eight, Dynamo Kiev were up against the defending champions Real Madrid. Just like the season before, Kiev grabbed a 1-1 draw away from home in the 1st leg at the Santiago Bernabeu with Shevchenko again on the scoresheet.


However unlike in 1998 against Juventus, the Ukrainian's defied the odds to win the 2nd leg 2-0 at home and eliminate the holders.


Only German heavyweights Bayern Munich stood in the way of Dynamo Kiev doing the unthinkable and booking a place in the final in Barcelona.


The 1st leg in Kiev was a classic European encounter which had end-to-end action.

Leading 3-1 with 12 minutes remaining, with Shevchenko scoring another double, coach Lobanovksy would have been more than glad to take a 2 goal lead to Munich for the return leg. But Ottmar Hitzfeld's Bayern clawed their way back in true German fashion with 2 late goals to take a 3-3 draw back to Bavaria.


In Munich, Mario Basler's stunning strike was enough to extinguish any hope's of Dynamo Kiev going all the way to Europe's showpiece event against Manchester United.


Despite being agonisingly close to European glory, those two campaigns in 1998 and 1999 was a proud moment not only for Dynamo Kiev, but for Ukrainian football as a whole.


While Shevchenko was the standout youngster who would go on to complete a move to AC Milan and establish himself as one of the best strikers in world football, there were other Dynamo players who played their part in this success story.


This included goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, defenders Oleh Luzhny and Kakha Kaladze and Shevchenko's strike partner Serhiy Rebrov. They too would go on to have successful careers of their own.


If the "smaller" football clubs feel discouraged about how it's the same heavyweights that have a higher chance of winning Europe's top prize, they can always look to the Dynamo Kiev sides of 1998 and 1999 as an example of how nothing is impossible.


- Rayan Adasi for www.footballretro.com

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