Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk players dedicated their victory over Napoli to reach the UEFA Europa League final was to the entire country of Ukraine.
Defender Artem Fedetskyi claimed Dnipro’s 1-0 win on Thursday, which eliminated Napoli 2-1 on aggregate, was “for our soldiers, who now defend us, our land”, and goalkeeper Denys Boyko insisted the team’s campaign is a dream for “the whole country”.
Dnipro have been forced to play all their Europa League home games in Kiev due to ongoing warfare in eastern Ukraine – where the city of Dnipropetrovsk lies – between Ukrainian troops and separatists sponsored by Russia.
After claiming a 1-1 draw in Napoli last week, Dnipro advanced to their maiden European final thanks to Yevhen Seleznyov’s second-half header – the 29-year-old nodding Yevhen Konoplyanka’s cross over Mariano Andujar 12 minutes after the break.
“While I cannot believe what happened, personally, I have wanted this for a long time,” Fedetskyi said.
“I dreamed of the Ukrainian Cup and the final of the European Cup here. I am proud for the city, for the team, for our country.
“This victory is for our soldiers, who now defend us, our land. Praise them, praise our heroes.”
The second leg was played in driving rain in Kiev and after the final whistle, fans stormed onto the pitch to celebrate with the Dnipro players.
Boyko thanked the supporters who came “at such times and in such weather”, with the goalkeeper having again played a key role for Dnipro with six saves, after crucially denying Gonzalo Higuain twice in one-on-one situations in the first leg in Italy.
“God willing, with our fans, with the whole country, we have a dream in which to believe,” the gloveman said.
“There is only the final [left].”