Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Matchday 26 in the Russian Premier League brought you sibling rivalry, World War One battlefields and a not so happy birthday for Obafemi Martins, explains Mark Gilbey...
Krylia Sovetov Samara 0-2 Rubin KazanIt was just last week this blog was saying maybe Rubin boss Gurban Berdiyew should stick another man up top.
The bus-parking, prayerbead-twiddling Turkmenistani concurred, ditching his 4-2-3-1 and playing Sergei Kornilenko AND birthday boy Obafemi Martins (he’s 26, before you ask) in a conventional 4-4-2 on a very chilly evening in Samara.
It didn’t work.
During the first half, the commentator explained that "Rubin had more offsides than Krylia because they played more through balls." No, Rubin had more offsides than Krylia because they played Obafemi Martins.
He was hauled off at half-time and replaced by Aleksandr Ryazantsev, as Rubin reverted back to 4-2-3-1. The rewards for taking off the ineffective Nigerian were instantaneous.
Thirty seconds after the restart Ryazantsev fed Kornilenko and the Belarusian slotted the ball under Eduardo Lobos to score his first goal since joining on loan from Zenit St Petersburg in August.
He then added a second shortly afterwards to condemn Krylia to their first defeat in five matches. London buses and all that...
Dinamo Moskva 4-1 Sibir NovosibirskAndriy Voronin taking corners? Might sound bonkers, but the ponytailed Liverpool flop almost scored direct from one after three minutes at Arena Khimki.
Both these sides have been demonstrating form that belies their current league positions of late. Sibir wouldn't be ensconced in the relegation zone if they’d played like this all season, while Dinamo might have been in the Europa League places. The Muscovites' manager Miodrag Bozović might even keep his job.
Sibir took the lead on the hour mark, but Dinamo scored a double in quick succession just a few minutes later and then repeated the feat in the dying moments to add some gloss to the scoreline.
Pick of the bunch was Aleksandr Samedov’s third in the 86th minute.
Sibir manager Igor Kruishenko - think an older, Belarusian Karl Pilkington with a ‘tache - said he felt "ashamed" after this defeat, which has all but confirmed their relegation after just one season in Russia’s top flight.
It’s not all been doom and gloom though: the Siberians beat PSV Eindhoven 1-0 in the Europa League not so long ago.
Spartak Moskva 2-1 FC RostovSod Welliton’s brilliantness, it’s been all about Aiden McGeady recently. The Irishman is yet to taste defeat in the league since arriving in Moscow, and you do wonder if Spartak would’ve been sitting pretty in the Champions League places had he been there from the start of the season.
He’s been a revelation in Russia and was the architect of Spartak’s victory over Rostov at the weekend. They had to come from behind though. Mullet-sporting Anri Khagush gave the visitors the lead in the Luzhniki, but McGeady took over, creating one and scoring the winner in the last minute to keep the pressure on Rubin in second.
First, the winger beat two men and crossed for Welliton to head home, then he converted a spot-kick after Aleksandr Kozlov was felled by a clumsy challenge from Isaac Okoronkwo.
It was a super penalty, mainly because by the time McGeady struck it, Rostov’s goalkeeper Anton Amelchenko had encroached so far off his line he was in danger of reaching the ball before the Irishman.
Tom Tomsk 1-0 Amkar PermThere was a call to arms in Siberia last week. Financially stricken Tom faced their biggest game of the season against Amkar and offered fans free tickets to roar them to victory at the Trud Stadion in yesterday's relegation six-pointer.
Last week the visitors’ supporters penned a letter to the Premier League, claiming they were deliberately engineering Amkar’s relegation to the First Division after some controversial refereeing decisions in recent weeks. You may not have heard the last of this conspiracy theory thingy considering Sergei Volkov was sent off in the first half.
It was a turgid opening 45 minutes and even if everyone has got together and ensured Amkar are going down, they wouldn't have had to influence this match, such was their poor performance.
They fell behind when Aleksandr Kharitonov volleyed in the only goal of the game for Tom, who looked very comfortable. Barring a miraculous recovery from Amkar, the Siberians will be playing Premier League football next season.
Terek Grozny 1-1 Spartak NalchikThe European dream is slipping away from Spartak. And if the rest of the continent even knew where the Kabardino-Balkar Republic was, they’d be pleased a trip to Nalchik could be off the cards.
Terek have nothing to play for and languish in mid-table, but didn’t give their Caucasus neighbours an easy ride, and they took the lead on 13 minutes through Andrei Vasyanovich’s own goal.
Spartak came right back into it though, and dominated what transpired to be a highly entertaining fixture in the Chechen capital. They had to wait until three minutes from the end for a deserved equaliser though, when Vladimir Dyadyun muscled his way into the box and side-footed past Soslan Dzhanayev.
Zenit St Petersburg 3-0 Alania VladikavkazIt was Kerzhakov versus Kerzhakov in Piter.
Hotshot striker Aleksandr lead the line for Zenit, while little brother Mikhail kept goal for the visitors. The stats said that the younger Kerzha was on a hiding to nothing: Alania have only picked up one point in the last 10 years from their trips to Russia’s second city, and NMTB has ran out of fingers and thumbs counting how many goals Aleksandr has managed in recent weeks. Inevitably, big brother scored. Twice.
Zenit were uncharacteristically sloppy, probably as a corollary of playing so many games recently – Luciano Spalletti has already said he’ll rest players against Hadjuk Split on Thursday – but they never really looked like letting this one slip and recorded their first win in three matches.
After Danko Lazović scored from a free-kick, Aleksandr tapped in his first just before half time and slotted a second under his outrushing brother after the break to win the sibling bragging rights, although he was denied the opportunity of a hat-trick by being substituted – much, you'd imagine, to the relief of Mikhail.
Lokomotiv Moskva 1-0 Anzhi MakhachkalaOfficially this was a home game for Lokomotiv, after the fixture between the pair earlier in the year was switched to Moscow following concerns over the state of the Dinamo Stadion’s pitch in Makhachkala. God knows what it was like then, because on Sunday it resembled a World War One battlefield.
Dagestan isn't an easy place to visit, not least when you’re a man short. Marko Basa received his marching orders on half time, but Lokomotiv managed a winner at the death when Dmitri Sychev smashed home from inside the penalty area to keep the Muscovites in the Europa League places.
Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast 1-1 CSKA MoskvaA few weeks ago, CSKA looked a shoo-in to usurp Rubin and take that second Champions League group stage spot. Three successive draws later, it looks like going down to the wire.
Tomas Necid’s scrappy goal gave them the lead, but the Extra-Terrestrials equalised when Aleksei Ivanov met a cross to volley spectacularly into the back of the net.
It was two points dropped for Leonid Slutsky’s side though when Ruslan Nakhushev was controversially adjudged to have brought down Necid in the area and saw red on 53 minutes.
Mark Gonzalez missed the resultant penalty and despite some late CSKA pressure, they couldn’t force a winner in Ramenskoye, leaving the Muscovites three points behind Rubin with a game in hand.
"Sod Welliton’s brilliantness, it’s been all about Aiden McGeady recently. The Irishman is yet to taste defeat in the league since arriving in Moscow"
McGeady may have decided to play for the Republic for his own "reasons" But he is NOT an Irishman. He is a Scotsman, born in Scotland to 2 scottish parents.
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