Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
It won’t be remembered as a cracker, round 25 of the Russian Premier League, but Zenit St Petersburg conceding three at Anzhi Makhachkala? None of the four sides in European action managing a win AND football’s best moustache making an appearance in Vladikavkaz? Oy, oy, oy!
Sibir Novosibirsk 0-0 Spartak Moskva
This fixture was a proper goalfest earlier in the year. It finished 5-3 to Spartak, so this blog had no hesitation setting its alarm for Saturday’s 8.30am kickoff.
Sod’s law said it would be naff.
Of course, if you were hardcore (which NMTB definitely wasn’t), Volgar-Gazprom Astrakhan versus SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk in the First Division began at 7am Moscow time yesterday, which is 4 o’clock in the morning if you live in the UK.
The old adage “one game at a time” meant bugger all to Spartak’s Valery Karpin, who rested half the side who lined up against Chelsea in the Champions League last week, probably with Wednesday’s fixture against Zenit in mind, which made for a disjointed performance against the division’s bottom side.
Even the introduction of in-form birthday boy Welliton on the hour mark did little to liven up Karpin’s 50th league game in charge, and Sibir will probably look back on this as an opportunity missed.
When you’re deep in the brown stuff like Igor Kriushenko’s boys, draws mean diddly-squat – you need wins – and Sibir’s next three games are Dinamo Moskva, Zenit and Lokomotiv Moskva.
Best get ready for the First Division then.
Aiden McGeady was one bright(ish) spot for Spartak, but NMTB’s one abiding memory of this fixture was a couple of pitch invaders giving the local police the run around.
Sibir are six points adrift with five matches remaining, while Spartak won’t catch CSKA in third, meaning Champions League football is off the menu next year (unless they win it this year, of course).
Alania Vladikavkaz 0-0 Dinamo Moskva
Borefest #2 kicked off shortly afterwards, and a lack of action has probably meant internet nerds have stopped having a butchers at those saucy snaps of spy Anna Chapman in the Russian edition of Maxim (predictably with a “For Your Eyes Only” headline) and started discussing what the dickens Valery Gazzaev was doing in Vladikavkaz.
Conspiracy theorists will put forth the idea he was running the rule over his new club. Ah, but which one?
Walter has been linked with assuming the Alania presidency AND becoming Dinamo’s new manager of late.
There is, of course a more innocent explanation: the ex-Dynamo Kyiv manager was probably just in Vladikavkaz to celebrate the home side’s title triumph 15 years ago, which he masterminded.
If possible, his facial aperture looked better in 1995 than what it does today.
This game was devoid of any real quality and that’s not because of Andriy Voronin; he was on the bench.
That’s seven points from the last three games for the Muscovites who’ve crept into the top half, but it doesn’t look Miodrag Božović is going to at the helm next season.
Dan Petrescu has also been linked with replacing the Montenegrin.
Spartak Nalchik 2-1 Tom Tomsk
Gambling folk would’ve had this one down as a home win. Tom Tomsk had lost their last six games on the road prior to this and Valeri Nepomniachi (the chap who coached Cameroon at Italia ’90), wasn’t able to halt that.
Spartak Nalchik were made to work for the three points, mind.
Yevgeny Starikov’s header from a free-kick gave the visitors an unexpected lead on 55 minutes until Vladimir Dyadyun equalised, and with the game drifting away to a draw, Roman Kontsedalov’s cross was eventually finished off by David Siradze after a game of penalty area pinball in the 93rd minute to keep the Caucasus club’s dream of a Europa League spot alive.
Lokomotiv Moskva are only keeping them out of the European places on goal difference, while Tomsk are 11th on 27 points, three shy of the magic 30, supposedly the Premier League’s “safety” figure.
Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast 1-0 Terek Grozny
Saturn must’ve been quaking in their boots at the prospect of Hector Bracamonte’s name on the Terek Grozny teamsheet.
The VERY big-haired Argentinean has scored five times against the Ramenskoye side over the years, but this being a day of awful football, predictably meant Bracamonte didn’t add to that tally.
The mid-table clash was settled by Aleksandr Sapeta with 11 minutes remaining.
Amkar Perm 1-2 Lokomotiv Moskva
Bar CSKA-Rubin, Sunday was a palpably better day of football, although perhaps not if you're happen to be called Amkar Perm, who suffered their third defeat on the spin in controversial circumstances.
They had gone ahead thanks to Andrei Topchu’s goal, but when you’re down at the bottom, the luck’s against you and all that.
Lokomotiv had only one fit striker in Dmitri Sychev, and had wondered where the goals would could from and Yuri Semin’s pre-match worries seemed justified until with 12 minutes left this happened…
Understandably, Amkar weren’t very happy.
A couple of minutes later Ivan Cherenchikov got himself sent off, and a bad day at the office was compounded in the last minute when Rodolfo acrobatically stuck away the winner for the Muscovites.
Amkar occupy the final relegation spot.
CSKA Moskva 0-0 Rubin Kazan
Igor Akinfeev had kept five clean sheets in a row prior to this one, while Rubin aren’t exactly renowned for their attacking prowess, and with Obafemi Martins up front on his own for the visitors, this third versus second battle was never going to have goals in it.
You can’t argue Gurban Berdiýew’s 4-5-1 isn't effective.
They’ve been champions two years running and you don’t go three games unbeaten against Barcelona by accident, but putting them in at the other end is the problem for Rubin, mainly because most of the team are back defending.
Someone should tell him you need to score goals to win football matches.
While they were doing a fine job of keeping blue dreadlocked Brazilian Vágner Love under wraps, Martins wasn’t having much joy as a lone striker and smacking balls up to the Nigerian to feed off proved futile.
You just keep thinking to yourself, stick another man up top. It might be something Berdiýew should consider employing in the Champions League as well, what with Europe’s fifth highest summer spenders managing just one goal (from the penalty spot) in 270 minutes in the competition.
You don’t know how much fun this blog has covering their games on live text at FourFourTwo.com.
Predictably, the closest we came to a goal was from a set-piece, when Mark González’s free-kick hit the bar.
CSKA are two points behind Rubin in second, having played two games less.
Anzhi Makhachkala 3-3 Zenit St Petersburg
Wowsers! Zenit followed suit with the rest of Russia’s European representatives and rested a few players. And, like them, failed to win.
Man-of-the-moment Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who’s managed 15 goals in 18 games didn’t fly out with the squad, which meant big-money signing from Rubin, Aleksandr Bukharov (Berdiýew could’ve done with him yesterday), the bloke brought in to replace him, finally managed to get a start.
Luciano Spallettii shouldn’t have underestimated Anzhi. This was Zenit’s fourth game in Dagestan’s capital, and the fourth they’ve failed to win.
They fell behind on three minutes after Jan Holenda lobbed reserve goalkeeper Yuri Zhevnov, before Danny took control of things.
After a long spell on the sidelines with injury, the Portuguese international is having a fantastic season in Russia. He ran half the length of the pitch and played a one-two with Bukharov on the edge of the box to set himself up to chip Ilya Abayev in the Anzhi goal and score the equaliser on eight minutes.
Konstantin Zyryanov then put Zenit ahead and Danny gave the unbeaten league leaders a two-goal cushion with a sublime finish on 63 minutes, but relegation-haunted Anzhi staged a spirited fight back in Dagestan.
Nicolae Josan scored with 10 minutes left and deep into injury time the unthinkable happened. Nicolas Lombaerts slipped in the penalty area, allowing Mikhail Bakayev to fire home a late equaliser and give the home side an unlikely (and welcome) point.
It was the first time Zenit had conceded three under Spalletti, not that it will have too much an impact on the title race.
They’re six points clear of Rubin with two games in hand, although yesterday proved they aren’t adverse to the odd c**k-up. Spartak away on Wednesday evening is going to be a cracker.
Anzhi are two points above the relegation zone.
Rostov 1-2 Krylia Sovetov Samara
Rostov started the season well, while Krylia struggled.
Now it’s the home side who’ve given up the ghost and begun losing every week, while the Samarans have realised that if they win games, it will be considerably easier to maintain their record of being the only non Moscow/St Petersburg-based club to be ever-present in the Premier League since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Krylia appeared doomed after going eight games without a victory earlier in the year, but they’ve won four of the last seven games of now.
This was Rostov’s fourth defeat on the bounce.
Nenad Đorđević opened the scoring on 10 minutes, only for Roman Adamov, on loan from Rubin, to equalise before half-time.
And it was another loanee, Pavel Yakovlev of Spartak Moskva, who expertly dinked in the winner with 19 minutes remaining.
Rostov are now nine points off Lokomotiv in the European spots, while Krylia have hauled their asses four points clear of the relegation zone.Premier League table (25 games unless stated)
Zenit St. Petersburg 57 (23 games)Rubin Kazan 51CSKA Moskva 49 (23)-----Spartak Moskva 40Lokomotiv Moskva 39-----Spartak Nalchik 39Rostov 33Dinamo Moskva 33 (24)Terek Grozny 31Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast 28Tom Tomsk 27Krylia Sovetov Samara 26Anzhi Makhachkala 24Alania Vladikavkaz 24-----Amkar Perm 22Sibir Novosibirsk 18
Next fixtures: Dinamo Moskva v CSKA Moskva, Spartak Moskva v Zenit St Petersburg (both Wednesday)
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