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Nov 3, 2006

Ukraine clubs sack skippers after poor Euro showing

KIEV, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Dynamo Kiev skipper Oleksander Shovkovsky and Anatoly Tymoshchuk, his counterpart at Shakhtar Donetsk, have paid the price of failure by the two Ukrainian clubs in this season's Champions League.

Both captains have been stripped of their positions following Shakhtar's meagre haul of two points from their opening four Group D matches and Dynamo's run of four straight defeats in Group E.

Shovkovsky was sacked as skipper of Dynamo by club president Ihor Surkis for failing to turn up to watch his side's home game with Olympique Lyon two weeks ago which Lyon won 3-0.

Shovkovsky was suspended from playing in that match after being sent off in the 5-1 defeat at Real Madrid in September -- for which he was largely blamed for the result.

He told the Dynamo internet site that he watched the Lyon game at a bar but said president Surkis had no right to take the decision to sack him.

'It is the team who chose me as captain and if it is to be decided that I am no longer to have this honour, the players should decide that at a meeting,' he said.

Tymoshchuk was dismissed as Shakhtar's skipper by coach Mircea Lucescu and replaced by Brazilian Matuzalem after the club's poor run in the competition - and disagreements with Shakhtar management over his ambitions to join other European sides, including Scotland's Celtic.

Lucescu said in an interview in August that he supported Tymoshchuk's proposal to find another club -- but he insisted on an acceptable transfer fee for a player of his calibre.

He turned down an offer of 4.0 million euros from the Scottish champions, saying he wanted at least 10.0 million.

Lucescu has made it clear that he sees Matuzalem as the team's natural leader. Last month, he described the Brazilian as the only player to perform up to his standards in the 2-0 defeat at Valencia.

Tymoshchuk told the popular web site football.ua that he was not upset at being replaced as captain but added to the dissent within the rankls by saying Matuzalem was not worthy of the honour.

'Matu says himself that Shakhtar is only a means of earning lots of money,' he said.

Although the Champions League ambitions of both teams are over, both could yet gain a UEFA Cup spot by finishing third in their groups - although the harmony and form at both clubs would need to improve very rapidly for that to happen.