Football Features

“There was no M-S-N to save him this time” – Winners and Losers from a dramatic night of Nations League action

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 21:59, 13 October 2020 | Updated: 9:44, 30 March 2021

In an incredible night of football, Ukraine shocked Spain and Switzerland held Germany.

Despite missing 12 players it was Ukraine’s first victory over Spain as Andriy Shevchenko masterminded a miracle, and then in Germany the Swiss shone despite Germany’s attacks. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Viktor Tsyhankov

Tsyhankov has an impressive 61 goals in 156 games for Dynamo Kyiv. He’s hardly the reincarnation of Andriy Shevchenko, but he’s a solid striker, albeit he’s never managed to lead Ukraine to any glory. His only goal against a good side was in a 1-7 loss to France.

Tonight though he had his starring moment, coming off the bench second-half he was the right man in the right place Andriy Yarmolenko sent a lovely ball in behind the defence. Spain’s offside trap was exposed as Jesus Navas had dropped too deep and Tsyhankov was 1-v-1 with David de Gea.

The Spanish stopper came off his line as he had been doing all night but this time, he didn’t do it with enough drive and that hesitation, that split-second pause, gave Tsyhankov the window he needed to bend a beauty of a shot around him into the back of the net. A historic goal for Ukraine giving them a huge win and drawing them level in the group with Germany. Tsyhankov will never be forgotten for that strike.

Loser: Luis Enrique

As much as Luis Enrique was a fantastic manager of ego’s at Barcelona, at Spain where the ego’s are fewer but the talent is just as infrequent, he looks somewhat superfluous. You don’t need to keep this group of players in line because they’re still, for the most part, unproven and hungry. This is a group of players that needs a unifying tactical mind to bring them together.

At Barcelona Lucho kept the good times rolling by keeping everyone fit and focused. Here for Spain he has to start the good times all over again and on the evidence of tonight he doesn’t seem to have any ideas beyond trusting the individual genius of his wingers (and as good as they are, Ansu Fati and Adama Traoré are no Leo Messi and Neymar) to drag him out of the fire.

But there was no M-S-N to save him this time. Spain had all of the ball but absolutely no idea what to do with it. And that doesn’t bode well for Euro 2021 nor Lucho’s future as Spain boss.

Winner: Georgiy Buschan

Much as Spain were nowhere near as impressive as they should have been, they did still have chances to score goals as they broke through the Ukraine back-line; but in their way they found Georgiy Buschan.

Usually Andriy Pyatov is in goal for Ukraine, a legendary liability who nevertheless continues to get chances. Well tonight Buschan showed by the old stager should probably be put out to pasture with a powerful showing to keep a massive clean sheet against Spain.

Loser: Goalkeepers in Cologne

Whilst Buschan was excelling in one of Group 4’s games and De Gea was ruining a largely good display with another moment of weak goalkeeping, the goalkeepers in Germany were doing their best to make the Spaniard feel better about himself.

Manuel Neuer has finally regained his status as the world’s top goalkeeper but tonight he was indecisive and weak, failing to dominate his area and allowing things like Switzerland’s opening goal. To say nothing of how weak he was for Switzerland’s second strike where Remo Freuler chipped him like he was Leo Messi.

And then Yan Sommer was just abysmal on all three of Germany’s goals, seemingly misunderstanding where his posts were as he completely failed to stand in the correct position or react quickly enough to stop relatively tame shots into the far corner of the net. At least with the third goal he could argue that the brilliance of Serge Gnabry’s improvisation caught him out, but it was still a bad look.

Winner: Mario Gavranovic

Mario Gavranovic last scored two goals in a single match for Switzerland back in 2012, his first two goals for his nation. Since then he scored six further goals but never again did he hit twice in one game. Until today anyway.

Gavranovic was so bright and alert against Germany, first to loop a header over Manuel Neuer from close range and then later on to be first to react to a loose ball in the penalty area and thump the ball high and hard into the back of the net.

A brilliant brace to give Switzerland a legendary draw and invaluable point.

Loser: Tammy Abraham

How is an English striker a loser after a game between Germany and Switzerland? Well it’s simple: the way Germany fought their way back into the game against Switzerland was through the genius of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

The Chelsea duo lit up the Swiss with some persistent and skilful dribbling and movement. Sure their finishes were soft and Yan Sommer should have saved them, but the movement and interplay as sublime. Werner scored Germany’s first (assisted by Havertz), then Havertz scored the second, and finally when Gnabry scored Germany’s second equaliser it came after excellent work from Werner.

The two of them formed a good attacking unit with Gnabry, and does Tammy Abraham’s skill-set in any way resemble the Bayern man’s? No. Christian Pulisic’s does, however, and you can see Frank Lampard favouring those three in attack given the chemistry we saw tonight. That could leap Tammy Abraham, through no fault of his own, out of luck on the bench.