Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Our expert on all things Eastern European, Mark Gilbey, gives us the low-down on the weekend's goings-on in Russia...
Spartak Moskva 2-2 Amkar Perm
God, Valery Karpin, you're so self-centred. And you’ve got a girl’s name.
It’s four games unbeaten for Spartak, which Valery has attributed to his “lucky” suit and tie. Doesn’t he realise they're the first four games Aiden McGeady has started?
Joking aside, September’s been a super month for Spartak, with their three straight wins before Friday’s match, one of which came in the Champions League away to Marseille.
NMTB doesn’t know whether Karpin’s suit really does have mystical powers like Jackie Chan’s tuxedo in the rubbish film of the same name, but were it not for McGeady’s belly, Spartak would’ve lost this game against Amkar.
The home side fell behind to Mitar Novaković’s ruddy marvellous strike against the run of play in the first half, yet almost inevitably Welliton scored (his 16th in 17 matches) to bring Spartak level, only for Ivan Cherenchiko to restore Amkar’s lead.
But with 12 minutes remaining Dmitri Kombarov whipped in a ball to the far post for an unmarked McGeady to belly into the back of the net. And he meant it.
A lucky suit and Aiden McGeady? MŠK Žilina don’t stand a chance in the Champions League tonight.
Zenit St Petersburg 6-1 Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast
Two-thirds of the way through the season and it already looks like we know who’ll win the league. Yawn.
Baldie genius Luciano Spalletti has spent big this summer and it seems to have paid off; Zenit are four points clear of Rubin with two games in hand, and thanks to this result, now have a far superior goal difference.
It will take a huge collapse for them not to win the title.
Aleksander Kerzhakov is keeping Alexander Bukharov out of the team at the moment, and his hat-trick against Saturn means all the talk is about him earning a starting place in Dick Advocaat’s Russia side next month.
Hooray! A weekend where the discussion isn’t about Welliton obtaining Russian citizenship.
Zenit had only conceded seven goals in 19 games going into this, so dunce of the weekend was Tomas Hubochan, whose wayward backpass let in Dmitry Kirichenko before halftime for 3-1 to make things interesting. Briefly.
Rubin Kazan 1-0 Alania Vladikavkaz
Wheeler-dealer Gurban Berdiýew was Europe’s fifth highest spender in the last transfer window, but all that means nowt at the moment. Rubin lost their opening game in the Champions League to F.C. København and are second in Russia.
Their Turkmen gaffer realised his players are going need all their energy chasing Barcelona around the Tsentralnyi Stadion pitch on Wednesday, so rested six first teamers for the game against Alania, which meant a disjointed performance in a match of little quality and few chances at either end.
It wasn’t a game for the neutral.
One of their expensive purchases who did play, Salvatore Bocchetti, fired in from the edge of the box to keep them on the coattails of Zenit. For now.
For Rubin, it’s a case of being defensively strong, but needing to discover the right combination in attack with their new signings. Obafemi Martins is not a lone striker.
They're unlikely to repeat their four-point haul against Barcelona, even if Leo Messi is on the bench tomorrow.
Berdiýew is going to need a hell of a lot of good fortune from his own lucky charms, them famous prayer beads, to get anything out of tomorrow night’s game.
Tom Tomsk 0-3 CSKA Moskva
CSKA were another side with one eye on Europe, and made three changes for their trip to Tomsk.
Vágner Love used to be good, then he got rubbish, but now he looks good again after his loan spells in Brazil, and scored his 100th goal for CSKA inside the first minute on Sunday.
The Brazilian picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and spanked a left-footed shot into the top corner to set CSKA on their way to a straightforward three points.
Just before halftime he turned provider for his partner Seydou Doumbia. Love latched onto Igor Akinfeev’s kick up field and crossed for the Ivorian to double CSKA’s lead in the 40th minute.
Tomáš Necid completed the scoring.
CSKA are third, four points behind Rubin, but with two games in hand.
Dinamo Moskva 0-3 Spartak Nalchik
Miodrag Božović began his Dinamo reign against Spartak Nalchik but, despite the rumours, won’t end it against them.
It’s been an unsatisfactory season for the Muscovites (again), who signed some half-decent players like Alexander Epureanu and Kevin Kuranyi, but languish in mid-table with eight games remaining.
Exciting talent Vladimir Dyadyun scored a poacher’s hat-trick of goals from inside the six yard box for the Premier League’s surprise package who, in fourth spot, have a good chance of European football next year.
They're one to look out for.
Rostov 0-1 Sibir Novosibirsk
Russia’s other overachievers rather underachieved at home to basement boys Sibir on Sunday. Rostov are fifth, but lost ground on Spartak Nalchik one place above them with this disappointing defeat.
But the great escape is probably not on for the Siberians, who beat 1-0 PSV Eindhoven earlier this year. The Russian Cup runners-up claimed three points in Rostov to put a dent in their opponent’s hopes of finishing above Spartak Nalchik, but stay bottom and are seven points adrift in the relegation zone.
Bartlomiej Grzelak scored the winner after 37 minutes.
Lokomotiv Moskva 2-1 Terek Grozny
Seventh placed Lokomotiv beat a plucky Terek 2-1 in Moscow, but the talking point of the match was Maurico’s equaliser for the Chechens, with the Brazilian midfielder appearing to knock the ball out of compatriot and Lokomotiv keeper Guilherme’s hands.
All three goals came inside the opening half an hour. Oleksandr Aliev scored from the spot after three minutes, and despite Mauricio’s controversial finish in the 20th minute, Maicon's goal eight minutes later proved decisive.
Lokomotiv are three points outside the European places.
Krylia Sovetov Samara 3-0 Anzhi Makhachkala
A much-needed win for relegation-threatened Krylia Sovetov Samara, who are now just three points from safety.
Krylia scored after two minutes with a monster Oleg Samsonov strike, and a miserable start was completed for the visitors when Rasim Tagirbekov saw red for a head-butt on Oleg Ivanov after 13 minutes.
While the incident looks fairly innocuous, it is worth remembering that Tagirbekov’s nose is massive – so big he could smoke in the shower – and it probably really hurt Ivanov.
But he managed to recover sufficiently from that beak attack to get on the scoresheet in the first half, as did Yevgeny Savin.
Krylia remain in the relegation zone, three points behind Amkar.
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