Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
So that’s pretty much everything squared up at the top, but my goodness are we going to have one humdinger of a final day down at the bottom in Russia.
Any one of four teams can still follow Sibir Novosibirsk through the Premier League trapdoor into the First Division. That’s a quarter of the league, don’t you know!
Sky Sports’ universe would probably implode with this kind last day excitement.
Alania Vladikavkaz 2-1 Terek Grozny
After an *ahem* controversial 3-1 defeat in Chechnya to one of their chums from the Caucuses who desperately needed three points to avoid relegation last week, Terek Grozny travelled to North Ossetia for a fixture with Alania Vladikavkaz, another of the region’s sides looking for a win to preserve their Premier League status.
Bet365.com’s odds were a paltry 1/6 for an Alania victory; Terek a bizarre 10/1. Oh, and there was no in-game betting. Just saying, like…
In a dour first half, Alania gave a master class in exactly how not to defend a corner, which also kinda suggested just why they are occupying the final spot in the relegation zone in the first place.
Goalkeeper Dmitry Khomich sort of wafted an arm at the ball as it was whipped in, but when Ismail Ediyev tapped into an empty net there was just one Alania player in the six-yard box.
It was shocking defending.
Less shockingly, cynics would aver, was Alania’s ability to turn things around and they scored twice after the break through Marat Bikmaev and Georgy Gabulov to pick up a much-needed three points.
Christ knows what was happening in the Terek penalty area for the winner.
Amkar Perm 3-1 Spartak Nalchik
Russian chairmen rather like this giving away tickets lark. This fixture was another of those freebies to get more bums on seats and generate a better atmosphere in a crunch game. Can you hear that, uber-rich chairmen of the Premier League over here?
The temperature was below zero in Perm and snow on the ground, meaning Amkar had to get the orange ball out of the garden shed for the visit of Spartak Nalchik.
This blog’s rubbish at predictions, but NMTB did say recently it could be the goals of Stevica Ristić that keep Amkar up, and while usually this would mean the kiss of death, the Macedonian only went and scored for the third week running with a sliding finish on 16 minutes!
Next week: the lottery numbers.
It wasn’t a bad weekend for the Balkan contingent in the Premier League, and Nalchik found an equaliser thanks to the forehead of Serbian Jovan Golić, who got himself on the end of a corner just after the half hour.
They seemed nailed-on certainties for a Europa League place earlier in the season, but have faded as the year wore on. Nalchik fell behind when Andrei Topchu struck on 57 minutes.
And the win that keeps Perm’s hopes of staying in the Premier League alive was confirmed when Aleksandr Kolomeytsev’s free-kick to the far post was met by Dmitri Belorukov 16 minutes from time.
Anzhi Makhachkala 1-2 Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast
It’s never easy going to Dagestan and coming away with all three points.
Saturn were also missing Denis Boyarintsev and Roman Vorobyov, while Aleksandr Sapeta was suspended, but they produced a superb performance to preserve their Premier League status for another season (at least according to the league table, quite what will happen to them off the pitch with their financial problems is all together less certain).
Anzhi had the better of a goalless first half, yet were restricted to mostly long range efforts by Saturn who opened the scoring after the break from a counter that was finished by Emin Makhmudov. Veteran Marko Topić’s then doubled their lead.
Anzhi were given a way back into the match when Dmytro Parfenov was adjudged to have brought down Ali Gadzhibekov in the box, although replays suggest otherwise. David Tsorayev tucked away the penalty.
Anzhi will be hoping they can get the win they need to stay up when the visit Spartak Nalchik next week…
CSKA Moskva 3-1 Spartak Moskva
It was star striker from Brazil #1 versus star striker from Brazil #2 at Arena Khimki.
CSKA’s blue dreadlocked danger man Vágner Love came up against Welliton, who’d sensibly decided to ditch his own dodgy hairstyle of a bleached blonde bonce for the Moscow derby.
The scoring was opened by another Brazilian though.
Ibson set Welliton free with a superb through ball, and while Igor Akinfeev managed to block the initial shot, the midfielder was following up to put a well-placed effort into an empty CSKA net on 17 minutes.
Deividas Šemberas’ picked up a second yellow to reduce CSKA to 10, but even a man shy they managed an equaliser in the second half when Sekou Oliseh’s drive crashed back off the woodwork and was acrobatically headed in by Keisuke Honda.
Their second was a case of great goal, naff finish.
Seydou Doumbia picked up Oliseh’s reverse pass and skilfully jinked his way through the Spartak defence to blast CSKA into the lead, but you do feel Bruno Tonioli would have a few choice words to say about those dance moves that followed if he saw the Ivorian’s merry jig.
Whatever happened to those Icelandic chaps with the wacky celebrations?
Vágner Love was scythed down by Nicolás Pareja in the last minute and he received his marching orders. It didn’t seem to affect him mind, and the Brazilian picked himself up to cap off the scoring to ensure CSKA finish as runners-up to Zenit St Petersburg ahead of Rubin Kazan, and claim that second Champions League group stage spot.
Krylya Sovetov Samara 1-0 Dinamo Moskva
Thank goodness Krylya won on Saturday (for them, anyway). They’ll do well to get something out of Zenit St Petersburg away on the final day.
They started the better of the two sides in Samara, and despite Dinamo growing into the game as it progressed, Krylya took the lead on 54 minutes when Yevgeny Savin finished off Oleg Samsonov’s low cross from the right for the only goal.
Andriy Voronin was missing with a hamstring injury, but rumours of Dinamo’s budget cuts appear unfounded. The approaches of several Bundesliga clubs were purported to have been rebuffed by the Muscovites for the ex-Liverpool striker.
Valery Gazzaev’s name continues to be linked with replacing Miodrag Božović at the helm however, and the news that Metalurg Donetsk youngster Vasyl Pryima could be on his way to Dinamo from Ukraine has fuelled these rumours.
Rostov 1-2 Lokomotiv Moskva
European football for Lokomotiv next season!
Their win in Rostov-na-Donu means they’ll be representing Russia in the Europa League next season at the expense of Spartak Nalchik. They could yet finish fourth, too.
Dmitri Loskov failed to convert a penalty, but made up for it with a superb pass to find Dmitri Sychev, who slotted through Dejan Radić’s legs to give them a deserved lead.
Dragan Blatnjak equalised with a free-kick on the hour for Rostov, who earlier in the season had their eyes on that last Europa League spot, but they were level for just one minute.
The Muscovites’ Brazilian defender Rodolfo coolly finished to give them all three points and continue that 10-game unbeaten run.
Rodolfo looks bound for South America, which will mean he’ll probably have to change his rodolfo4lokomotiv Twitter ID to something a bit more appropriate in the near future.
And another one on the move might be Yuri Semin.
The managerial merry-go-round seems just about to begin in the FSU with the ends of seasons/winter breaks looming. He admitted after the match he wasn’t sure of his plans for next season, which could mean a return to Dynamo Kyiv.
It would be a bit harsh on poor old Oleg Luzhny if he did, though. He’s done a decent job in Ukraine of late.
Rubin Kazan 2-2 Zenit St Petersburg
Defence-minded Rubin have now gone three Premier League games without a clean sheet. Sort it out, Gurban!
It was a case of: if you can play, you will play, in Kazan. For both sides.
An injury-ravaged Zenit travelled to Tatarstan with just one goalkeeper, Dmitri Borodin, and in nets at the other end, Rubin handed a debut to Giedrius Arlauskis in place of Sergey Ryzhikov, who revealed his pre-match superstition was bizarrely, never to cut his fingernails the day before a fixture.
Both goalies for Zenit, Yuri Zhevnov and Vyacheslav Malafeev were out, while Sergei Semak and Alexander Bukharov, both signed from Rubin, were ineligible to play as part of the terms of their transfer.
Rubin’s Carlos Eduardo was also missing and it looks like he won’t feature in their Champions League game with København have this week, unless it’s all mind games from Gurban Berdiýew. Obafemi Martins was ill.
But returning from a long layoff was Roman Sharonov, who made his first appearance of the season for Rubin; it’s unlikely he’ll start for such a key fixture in midweek though.
Viktor Fayzulin’s deflected strike from outside the area gave the visitors the lead, and after the break some uncharacteristically slack defending left Szabolcs Huszti completely unmarked in the box to double their advantage with a superb volley on 53 minutes.
And equally uncharacteristically Zenit let a two-goal lead slip in Kazan.
César Navas headed in Bibras Natkho’s cross on 61 minutes, then shortly afterwards Christian Noboa set Aleksei Medvedev free to put past Borodin.
Berdiýew claims he’s happy with third. It will mean navigating Rubin through a difficult qualifying stage in the Champions League though next year.
Sibir Novosibirsk 0-1 Tom Tomsk
In the Siberian derby the orange ball was again deployed, and Sibir’s Aleksei Solosin was sporting a rather fetching black hat/balaclava thing to keep the cold out.
After a spot of wrestling in the box between Artem Dzyuba and Sibir’s Steeve Joseph-Reinette, Tom’s young striker picked himself up to send Solosin the wrong way, and fulfilled the promise he made to Dzyuba Snr that he would manage to score 10 goals this year.
Like for much of the season, Igor Kriushenko’s team played some nice stuff without reward.
Bartłomiej Grzelak had the chance to equalise from the spot for Sibir six minutes from the end, but his penalty was saved by Aleksei Poliakov, meaning their final home game of the season ended in defeat.
FIXTURES November 28 Amkar Perm v CSKA Moskva, Spartak Nalchik v Anzhi Makhachkala, Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast v Alania Vladikavkaz, Terek Grozny v Sibir Novosibirsk, Tom Tomsk v Rostov, Lokomotiv Moskva v Rubin Kazan, Zenit St Petersburg v Krylya Sovetov Samara, Dinamo Moskva v Spartak Moskva
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