Don't go to the Ukraine was the warning. With two countries in the news for the wrong reasons in our Champions League group there was some apprehension before flying. Travel websites advised caution about scams carried out on tourists. Friends worried that Putin might shoot my plane down. But Kyiv is like any Eastern European city - one of the most beautiful I have ever visited.
The city is quaint and has more cathedrals than McDonald's restaurants. Having spent the bulk of it rambling about to get to know the city better including a visit to the Chernobyl Museum I turned back to football. The U19s played in Dynamo's normal home "Lobanovsky" stadium used for lesser matches rather than the National Olympic Stadium. And what a throwback to the traditional Eastern European stadia of old it was. No roof on any part of the ground despite the weather being damp and drizzly. The work rate and discipline of our youngsters impressed, but with the dreary weather I left at half-time knowing one more stadium was knocked off the list.
The organisation for the main event was woeful with stewards having no idea where fans should go. Chelsea were let in with home fans which did not seem a wise idea following news that some of our followers had been ambushed on Monday evening. The atmosphere was a strange one. Dynamo's ultras took one small corner of the ground. The majority of fans in our end were from the local Ukraine/Chelsea supporters club. Singing, "Blue Is The Colour" incessantly is cringeworthingly naive but quite sweet. Estimates were that of the 1,100 away tickets sold, less than half were those who had the guts to fly over from the UK.
We dominated the first 20 minutes and on another day would have scored at least three. Hazard looked on fire with his boots on turbo boost. Fabregas was having his best game of the season. I questioned my own sanity when he was brought down in the box and not awarded a penalty. Surely one of the most obvious fouls ever? How many more decisions that go against us do we have to swallow? Well done Jose for your "naive" comment which raised a smile amongst our fans. Matic made a brilliant run too that could have resulted in one of our best goals this season.
Then attention turned to shenanigans in the home end. During his legendary commentaries on Capital Gold, Jonathan Pearce used to have a policy of not mentioning issues on the terraces as he felt that giving publicity to fighting morons would exacerbate issues. But I cannot as this was uncomfortable to witness as home fans fought amongst themselves in violence I had not seen for years. Even worse was realising that there was nothing being done to stop them. Two stewards in a group of a few hundred is a waste of time. One fan was getting beaten with a crutch. The police stood at the back of the Chelsea end and did nothing. I left at half-time not wanting to take any risks. Others left way before full time. What a sour way of ending an otherwise fantastic trip. Yet again, attending the actual match when journeying abroad is the worst aspect of European aways.