Season review: Ukraine

"This has perhaps been the toughest year of my spell," admitted FC Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu, with the Pitmen's fifth successive title not coming easy.

Mircea Lucescu's Shakhtar had a hard chase for the title
Mircea Lucescu's Shakhtar had a hard chase for the title ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Metalist Kharkiv led for a while but FC Shakhtar Donetsk's form held in the closing stages as they reeled in a fifth successive title. Myron Markevich will have the honour of leading runners-up FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the UEFA Champions League after he replaced Juande Ramos as coach. FC Dynamo Kyiv beat the Pitmen in the cup final; consolation for a shaky domestic campaign, in which they finished fourth.

Champions: FC Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar's fifth straight championship was one of the hardest-won of their nine crowns to date. The departure of a number of key players in the summer unbalanced Mircea Lucescu's side for a while, and while they lost both of their encounters with Dnipro over the course of the season, they went into the winter break as Premier League leaders and kept a grip on the title for the spring – eventually taking the tape with a 3-1 victory over FC Zorya Luhansk in the penultimate round. "This has perhaps been the toughest year of my spell at Shakhtar," conceded Lucescu afterwards. "We still have a lot of work to do, primarily with the new young players."

Dynamo with their first trophy in five years
Dynamo with their first trophy in five years©FC Dynamo Kyiv

Cup final: FC Dynamo Kyiv 2-1 FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Dynamo's first major trophy in five years came as a huge relief, with a fourth-placed finish in the league their worst performance since independence. Domagoj Vida starred for coach Serhiy Rebrov – called in to succeed Oleh Blokhin – the Croatian having a shot deflected in by Shakhtar's Olexandr Kucher on 40 minutes and squeezing in a second before the interval. Douglas Costa's 57th-minute response could not deny Dynamo a record tenth Ukrainian Cup. "We have all been waiting for this victory," said Rebrov, at 39 the youngest coach to have lifted the trophy. "The players needed it to believe in themselves."

European places*
FC Shakhtar Donetsk – UEFA Champions League group stage
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk – UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
FC Dynamo Kyiv – UEFA Europa League group stage
FC Metalist Kharkiv – UEFA Europa League play-offs
FC Chornomorets Odesa – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
FC Zorya Luhansk – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Yevhen Konoplyanka (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk)
Formally named as Ukraine's official player of the year for 2013, the light-footed left-winger, 24, played a very important role for the national team as well as for his club. Dnipro's opponents were well aware of how fast and effective Konoplyanka is on his wing but still struggled to subdue him, while the free-kick specialist's eight Premier-Liha goals included four winners.

One to watch: Serhiy Bolbat (FC Metalurh Donetsk)
On loan from neighbours Shakhtar, Bolbat made fast friends at Metalurh in his first season in the Ukrainian top flight with some stylish performances in midfield. A regular for his nation at Under-21 level, the 20-year-old was fast-tracked into the senior side for May's 2-1 friendly win against Niger, in which he set up a goal.

Surprise package: FC Chornomorets Odesa
Without big-name players and with a relatively modest budget, last term's beaten cup finalists more than held their own, Chornomorets coming fifth in the league and getting as far as the cup semi-finals. Perhaps more impressively, they also made it through the UEFA Europa League group stage and only narrowly lost out to Olympique Lyonnais in the round of 32. Their 48-year-old coach Roman Grygorchuk has been justly praised.

Leading scorer: Luiz Adriano, FC Shakhtar Donetsk (20)

Relegated: SC Tavriya Simferopol, FC Arsenal Kyiv

Promoted: FC Olimpik Donetsk, PFC Olexandryia

Quote: "I was probably cursed."
Coach Oleh Blokhin explains why Dynamo fared so poorly under his command