Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
The beginning of the new Premier League season in Russia hasn't been plain sailing for two of Chelsea’s old boys.
Ruud Gullit’s Terek Grozny have lost both of their fixtures without scoring - although admittedly they were against Zenit St Petersburg and Rubin Kazan - while Dan Petrescu has endured a difficult few days at Kuban Krasnodar, although things at least took a turn for the better for the Romanian on Sunday.
After defeat in Kuban’s first match to Gurban Berdiýew’s bus-parkers from Kazan (he’s promised us a more expansive game this season from Rubin) and Nikola Nikezić making some pretty sensational allegations surrounding the termination of his contract with the club last week, Russia’s yo-yo team put three points on the board yesterday with a 1-0 win in Siberia against Tom Tomsk.
Kuban aren’t the only newly promoted side from Krasnodar in the Premier League this season, however.
They’re joined at Russian football’s top table by FC Krasnodar, despite the club only being founded in 2007 and, perhaps more interestingly, finishing fifth in the First Division last season, three positions and 10 points below the league’s runners-up Volga Nizhny Novgorod in the second promotion spot.
Wealthy Krasnodar stepped in to fill the void left by Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast’s financial demise, leapfrogging Nizhny Novgorod and KAMAZ Naberezhnye Chelny who finished above them last season in the process, much to the pair’s chagrin.
They don’t have their own stadium, much history or a sizeable fan base - and in 2008 Krasnodar wangled a promotion out of the Second Division in not-too-dissimilar circumstances, but they are privately owned however.
Krasnodar’s chairman is local-boy-done-good, budget supermarket billionaire Sergey Galitsky. Private ownership is something the Premier League are keen to encourage, instead of the state-run system prevalent in Russia - and with Galitsky’s cash, Krasnodar are unlikely to suffer the same fate as Saturn in 2010 and FC Moskva the year before.
Last year Galitsky occupied 342nd spot on Forbes’ rich list with an estimated $2.9 billion and despite owning Magnit, the budget supermarket chain, the 42-year-old hasn’t been thrifty where Krasnodar are concerned and the club have some top class facilities.
Plus he’s recruited the experienced Serbian Slavoljub Muslin as manager and a decent crop of players in an attempt to establish Krasnodar as a Premier League side.
But it was Igor Picuşceac, part of the team that played in the First Division, who became the answer to a quiz question in southern Russia at the weekend.
The Moldovan got his head on the end of an inviting Dušan Anđelković cross to score Krasnodar’s first ever Premier League goal on Saturday in their 2-0 win against Spartak Nalchik 10 minutes before half time.
Last season in Russia’s second tier Krasnodar conceded 44 goals - just one less than the other two other promoted clubs combined - and Spartak Nalchik were the fourth highest scorers under Yuri Krasnozhan in 2010, but Muslin has assembled a new-look back four of Anđelković, Aleksandr Amisulashvili, Nemanja Tubić and Ognjen Vranješ, which seemed fairly robust after the visitors applied some early pressure and it transpired to be a good win for the home side, who played well after the break.
The 27-year-old Picuşceac turned provider in the second half for Krasnodar’s new Armenian signing Yura Movsisyan to score in the 70th minute and seal the victory.
That makes it four points and two clean sheets from Krasnodar’s opening two games after they drew 0-0 away at Bobby Carlos’ nouveau-riche lot Anzhi Makhachkala on the first day of the season.
It means diddlysquat after a couple of matches into a 30-game season of course, but Krasnodar were top of the tree on Saturday evening until being usurped by Rubin yesterday.
The ambitious club were linked with Aliaksandr Hleb and Niko Kranjčar earlier in the year and although those rumours might well be baseless, Krasnodar do have a healthy budget with which to compete in the Premier League.
Tougher tasks lie ahead for them; the early signs are they won’t struggle though.
RESULTS Sat 19 FC Krasnodar 2-0 Spartak Nalchik, Dinamo Moskva 3-1 Rostov Sun 20 Tom Tomsk 0-1 Kuban Krasnodar, Amkar Perm 1-0 Lokomotiv Moskva, Rubin Kazan 2-0 Terek Grozny
FIXTURES Mon 21 Krylya Sovetov Samara P-P CSKA Moskva, Zenit St Petersburg v Anzhi Makhachkala, Spartak Moskva v Volga Nizhny Novgorod
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