Monthly review: With just nine rounds to go, nerves are fraying in the Ukrainian title race between FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
With nine rounds remaining, nerves are fraying in the Ukrainian title race between FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Shakhtar's chances of leapfrogging their rivals took a major blow in their first match of the spring when they were held 1-1 at home by SC Tavriya Simferopol - a result that prompted coach Mircea Lucescu to lash out at the country's referees and footballing authorities.
While Lucescu was losing his cool, Dynamo just about kept theirs, winning 2-1 at fourth-placed FC Illychivets Mariupil thanks to a contentious goal. However, they came crashing to earth on 11 March as they drew 0-0 at home to FC Vorskla Poltava, allowing Shakhtar to move three points behind the leaders with a 2-0 home victory against FC Metalist Kharkhiv.
Miron Markevich's Metalist had previously won 2-0 against fifth-placed FC Metalurh Donetsk, whose hopes of European qualification have been dented by two defeats already in 2006. Sunday's 1-0 loss at FC Chornomorets Odesa prompted coach Olexandr Sevidov to resign.
Sevidov had lost a number of key players over the winter, with Serhiy Shyschenko moving to FC Metalurh Zaporizhya and Olexandr Zotov and Serhiy Zakarlyuka being withdrawn from the squad for unknown reasons. His replacement is 38-year-old former FC Borysfen Boryspil boss Stepan Matvyiv.
Chornomorets, in third, are flying after winning both their opening fixtures of 2006. However, Illichivets look ready to challenge them all the way for the bronze medal. Ivan Balan's side are also in the Ukrainian Cup semi-finals.
UEFA Cup slot
Should Illichivets beat Zaporizhya in their semi, they will meet either FC Karpaty Lviv or Dynamo in the final. With Dynamo strong title favourites, they would hand their opponents the automatic UEFA Cup slot allocated to the cup winners simply by getting past Karpaty Lviv.
At the foot of the table, FC Zakarpattya Uzhgorod are all but relegated but second-from-bottom FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih have every chance of escaping the drop and joining the rest of the Premier League teams as the 2006/07 campaign kicks off on 23 July.