Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Three goalless matches out of eight might not scream final day excitement in Russia, but golly was the conclusion to the Premier League a good ‘un.
The four-way relegation scrap between Alania Vladikavkaz, Amkar Perm, Anzhi Makhachkala and Krylya Sovetov Samara went right to the wire, Welliton scored his zillionth goal of the year and Aiden McGeady threw a hissy fit in the Moscow derby!
Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast 1-1 Alania Vladikavkaz
The dirty rumour doing the rounds last week was that Saturn were going to throw this one. Certainly the bookies seemed to agree, and let’s face it, they don’t often get these things wrong, do they?
Christ knows what happened, but just before kickoff the odds shifted from a convincing Alania win…
It looked like some players hadn’t read the script (or at the very least had been sent the wrong one) because there was some shambolic defending on display from both sides, especially Saturn, who controlled the game for the most, while at the same time managing to present the visitors with numerous chances to score that makes Never Mind the Bolsheviks wonder how it is they contrived to get just the one.
That came early in the first half. Somehow Ivan Ivanov’s flick from a corner pinged into the box made its way past Saturn’s defence and their goalie Artem Rebrov, a surprise choice in nets ahead of Antonín Kinský, to give the away side the lead on 13 minutes.
On the pitch Saturn might be safe, but off it they are still in trouble. Never mind not having enough roubles in the bank for Christmas pressies, the club could well go bust if Grandfather Frost doesn’t bring them 16 million quid next month.
The 1995 champions were pegged back when Dmitri Khomich spilt Zelão’s cross into his own net on 32 minutes, and despite some awful defending, Alania couldn’t force a winner, meaning they join Sibir Novosibirsk on a trip back to the First Division after just one season in the top flight.
Some might say a Premier League with just the three Caucasus teams isn't an altogether bad thing…
Spartak Nalchik 1-3 Anzhi Makhachkala
Over in Nalchik we had one of those Caucasus derbies where one team had nothing riding on it, while the other needed a win to stay up.
NMTB would have put its lifesavings on this one being an away win. If only Bet365 were taking people’s money on this fixture yesterday…
Until last week Spartak Nalchik were challenging for a Europa League spot; mostly because they hadn’t been defending like they did against Anzhi yesterday this season, who went ahead in stoppage time at the end of the first half when Jan Holenda’s cross was converted by an unmarked Andrei Streltsov.
The managerial merry-go-round is about to begin out east. Yuri Krasnozhan has done a superb job at Nalchik and his name has been mentioned in the same breath as Lokomotiv Moskva, should Yuri Semin rejoin his pals back at Dynamo Kyiv, but he’s probably glad he missed this game.
Krasnozhan was in Moscow having eye surgery.
On yesterday’s showing, a few of his players could do with a trip to the opticians themselves because leaving men free in the box seemed to be their Achilles’ heel.
Ilya Kukharchuk found himself with acres of space to double Anzhi’s lead 20 minutes into the second half. Nalchik did reduce the arrears when Magomed Mitrishev burst clear and rounded Nukri Revishvili to slot into an empty net though, only for Kukharchuk to seal the points and survival for Anzhi when some sloppy play at the back allowed him to finish easily.
Amkar Perm 0-0 CSKA Moskva
This was a perfect advert for why switching to a winter calendar is a terrible idea.
It was a rather parky -14°C in Perm and the artificial surface was covered in a blanket of snow, meaning not only was having a decent game of football damn near impossible, but they had to get the tractor out before we began (and at half time) so we could see the pitch markings, which was good for all of about 10 minutes before more of the white stuff came down.
CSKA travelled to the Urals with just 15 first team players and had to borrow a couple from the youth team, but they only named six substitutes yesterday.
Vágner Love had conveniently picked up a yellow card last week and he was basking in glorious sunshine somewhere in his native Brazil while his chums were slugging it out in the cold, the lucky bugger.
There was talk of moving this game to somewhere west of Perm to beat the weather, but Amkar were keen for home advantage in their bid to beat the drop.
Leading the line for CSKA was Tomáš Necid, who displayed exactly the kind of form to suggest why that story in the Daily Mail last week linking him with a move to Liverpool is bobbins. If it’s not, fans in Scouseland should be very worried if Woy is going to splurge £10 million on the Czech striker.
The closest we came to a goal was Alan Dzagoev’s free-kick that hit the bar in the second half.
Zenit St Petersburg 0-0 Krylya Sovetov Samara
The final side with one eye on results elsewhere were Krylya, who were looking 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.
Luciano Spalletti gave some of his players a week off, and were probably quite grateful not to be out on the pitch in some pretty horrible weather in St Petersburg, which all combined for a fairly disjointed performance from Zenit.
But the result suited both sides; Krylya preserved their Premier League status without spoiling Zenit’s big party and everyone went home happy.
Thankfully the goalposts stayed intact when the final whistle sounded.
Everyone went loopy, mind – Spalletti included – who showed his solidarity with the home supporters by stripping off and parading his bare chest around the Petrovsky Stadium in the snow.
Nice abs, Luciano…
The Italian has had a superb first season in Russia and Zenit are a decent bet for winning the Europa League, too.
Lokomotiv Moskva 0-0 Rubin Kazan
It wouldn’t be a weekend of goalless games without the original nil-all merchants Rubin Kazan shutting out Lokomotiv, would it?
At the other end, Obafemi Martins was leading the line on his own for Gurban Berdiýew’s side, so the chances of a goal were, err… nil, so to speak.
Denis Glushakov hit the bar for Lokomotiv, but the big talking point was Yuri Semin.
After the match he said his future will be decided within a month, which kind of fits in well with when Dynamo Kyiv’s head honcho Igor Surkis said he’ll announce who’ll replace Oleg Luzhny over in Ukraine.
God, if he took Oleksandr Aliyev back with him Dynamo would be brilliant again.
He might also want to listen to the sage advice of the former Arsenal and Wolves defender and pinch Ukrainian wonderkid Yevhen Konoplyanka from Juande Ramos at Dnipro, too.
Dinamo Moskva 1-1 Spartak Moskva
Someone’s got a temper problem.
Moments after being taken out (not for the first time yesterday, NMTB should add) a frustrated Aiden McGeady got to his feet and did a number on Marcin Kowalczyk in the Moscow derby.
He joined Adrian Ropotan for an early bath (not together, you’d imagine) after he had scythed down the Irishman in equally cynical fashion just 10 minutes earlier.
The game was Dmitri Khokhlov’s Dinamo swansong. Fittingly, the 34-year-old scored, but not before Welliton had given Spartak the lead with his 19th goal in 25 games, making him the league’s top marksmen for the second year running.
Khokhlov glanced in Andriy Voronin’s free-kick on his final match before joining the coaching staff of Dinamo, who will apparently stick with Miodrag Božović in charge, according to our chums at RIA Novosti.
Things have certainly picked up since the Montenegrin took over in April.
Terek Grozny 1-1 Sibir Novosibirsk
Sibir bid farewell to the top flight, meaning arduous trip out east will be the First Division clubs’ problem next year; they’re already used to it though, what with SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk and Luch-Energiya Vladivostok down there.
Héctor Bracamonte has looked like a man who eats out of bins for most of this season with his wild man of Borneo look, but he’s an important player for Terek and after getting into the box and having a decent shot saved, the ball came back out to Shamil Asildarov to give the Chechens the lead on seven minutes with a smart finish.
There’s been a lot of negative talk about alleged scandals involving Terek of late and they would have wanted to end the season with victory in front of their own fans after failing to win since round 23.
Sibir had other ideas. Tomáš Čížek headed in Vagiz Galiullin’s cross on 71 minutes to earn them a point in the final game of their inaugural season in the Premier League.
The good news for them is that Igor Kriushenko has agreed a contract extension to try and take the club back at the first time of asking.
Tom Tomsk 3-1 Rostov
This was another one played in some blumin’ cold conditions. The thermometers read -18°C in Tomsk and there was an idea mooted of this one being moved too, but they just decided to use an orange ball, plenty of thermals and get on with it.
Chavdar Yankov gave Rostov the lead when he ghosted through the Tom defence to score on 55 minutes; Vladislav Khatazhyonkov really should have done something – anything, really – other than dither when the ball was knocked past him by the Bulgarian.
Luckily for him, Aleksandr Kharitonov had his shooting boots on.
His super free-kick pulled Tom level just two minutes later and then he fired home after a melee in the Rostov box (79).
The end of the season couldn’t come soon enough for the Rostovites, who’ve failed to win since match day 20.
They went hunting for an equaliser deep into injury time and their goalie Dejan Radić got caught out when he went up for a corner in the 95th minute, allowing Kyrylo Kovalchuk to take advantage and walk the ball into the empty net to end the season on a high note for Tom.
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