The goalpost-breaking, underwear-revealing Russian Review (with video)

It was a busy weekend for trophy engravers in the former Soviet republics. Lokomotiv Astana picked up the Kazakh Cup, BATE Borisov made it five Belarusian championships on the bounce and over in Armenia Pyunik Yerevan won their 12th league title.

Oh, and they can probably etch “Shakhtar Donetsk” onto the Premier League trophy in Ukraine too, even if we are only halfway through the season. That 10-point lead they’ve established between themselves and Dynamo Kyiv is looking insurmountable with 13 games remaining.

But the biggie was won in Russia. No, not the PFL Cup (the tournament for the winners of the regionalised third tier – won by Chernomorets Novorossiysk, since you didn’t ask).

You can’t deny Zenit St Petersburg have been the most consistent side in Russia this year, and finally – and deservedly – Luciano Spalletti got his hands on the Premier League trophy with a flattering 5-0 win over Rostov at the Petrovsky Stadium on Sunday.

Spalletti has done a sterling job since his appointment in December. Yeah, there was a bit of a wobble towards the end when the fixtures were piling up, but we’ve known for sometime now that Gazprom’s zillions would bring the title back to Russia’s second city this season for the first time in three years.

Averaging over two goals a game and conceding only less than Gurban Berdiyew’s uber-defensive lot over in Tatarstan, Zenit weren’t beaten domestically for eight months until Spartak Moskva managed a 1-0 win against them in October.

On Sunday, Danko Lazovic’s penalty gave Zenit the lead against Rostov, but they lacked any real urgency and penetration after the break and looked content with just the one goal, despite enjoying a lot of the ball against a side with bugger all to play for.

It was probably a mistake to inform the players of CSKA Moskva’s draw earlier in the day at half-time. The commentator’s assertion that the game was being played “like a victory procession” was spot on, for the most.

It sprang into life with 15 minutes remaining though. Sergei Semak, a Premier League winner with CSKA in 2003 and Rubin for the past two seasons netted a second from close range and Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored a third. Aleksandr Bukharov completed the rout with a brace in injury time.

While the players danced a merry jig on the dressing-room massage table, a group of jubilant supporters flooded the pitch and broke the goalposts at one end for souvenirs.

Clashes with the police also marred the celebrations around Nevsky Prospekt later in the evening as around 2,000 fans took to the streets.

No one’s really believing the official line that the image of that bloodied police officer lying on the floor had “fallen over”, either. In typical fashion, the Daily Mail picked up on this with a hyperbolic piece sticking the boot into the country’s World Cup bid that didn’t really mention the football at all.


Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast 2-2 Amkar Perm
Down at the bottom, Saturn, a team with massive problems off the field, welcomed Amkar, a team with massive problems on it, in Friday’s only game.

Investment company MOITK would rather like their 803.7 million roubles (roughly £17m) back from Saturn, thank you very much, and their future looks bleak unless a sponsor can be found, but they took the lead after a goalless first half when a quick move down Amkar’s left was finished off by Marko Topić on 49 minutes.

Amkar are teetering on the brink of relegation, mainly because they can’t score. So it’s rather fortunate that Stevica Ristić has decided to start putting them in the back of the net recently. His neat turn and finish from Aleksandr Kolomeytsev’s cross was his second in successive matches.

Keep that up, lad, and you might just save Amkar.

They were only level for 10 minutes though, when Andrei Karyaka restored Saturn’s lead.

But with time running out Amkar managed a last-gasp equaliser when Ristic proved he doesn’t just score them, he can also provide and his knock down was blasted in by the Bulgarian Georgi Peev to earn a valuable point for the Urals side.


Tom Tomsk 1-1 Alania Vladikavkaz
Tom Tomsk’s Ukrainian-born, Russian/American depending on who calls him up first forward Yevgeni Starikov had a fine game on Saturday, NMTB’s not questioning that. But he didn't half make a meal of his collision with Simeon Bulgaru to win a penalty.

Since the departure of Sergei Kornilenko (to stand isolated up front for Rubin while the other 10 players defend), Artem Dzyuba has filled the void left by the giant Belarusian rather well, and he opened the scoring from the subsequent spot kick.

NMTB is struggling for a phrase to succinctly describe this, but Tom suffered a Michael-Turner-free-kick-mix-up-that-cost-Sunderland-a-goal-at-Liverpool-thanks-to-Stuart-Attwell moment, although thankfully for them the referee interpreted the situation differently (and most would say, correctly) and Eldar Nizamutdinov’s goal was chalked off.

Alania did equalise though when Georgy Gabulov took advantage of some awful goalkeeping to give them a much-needed point.

Terek Grozny 1-3 Anzhi Makhachkala
A helluva lot of money was staked on this match between the Caucasus sides from the bookmakers that were taking bets on it; in excess of $2m, if you believe some reports.

Certainly Terek rested a few, although that could quite conceivably be because it’s the end of the season and they’ve got nowt to play for.

Rumour has it the guestbook on Terek’s official website was down on the day of the match, and for some unknown reason Ramzan Kadyrov, who combines his role as club president with that of head of Chechnya, wasn’t in attendance.

Oh, and they had a man sent off and their manager Anatoly Baidachny wasn’t all that keen to speak to press afterwards, either.

These three points did Anzhi the world of good. It will be interesting to see what happens when Terek travel to North Ossetia to face Alania next week, another side from the region down at the bottom looking for a win.

Just saying…

Dinamo Moskva 2-2 Rubin Kazan
Gurban Berdiyew must really have been fiddling with his prayer beads when the pilot of Rubin’s Yak-42 announced the plane taking them to Moscow had suffered engine failure 40 minutes after takeoff on Friday morning and they needed to make an emergency landing.

Christ knows what the one unnamed player scared of flying thought, although you do sort of wonder precisely how he imagined Rubin travelled to games when he signed for a club based 450 miles east of Moscow.

They’re usually super-tight at the back, Rubin. But they fell two behind in the first half thanks to a couple of headers from Dinamo’s Moldovan defender Alexandru Epureanu and Kevin Kuranyi.

Rubin upped their game after the break though and were the dominant side for the most. They have been showing they do know what to do with the ball in the final third of late, and their Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Noboa pulled one back with a neat volley just after the restart, then scored an equaliser on 65 minutes.

Dinamo’s charge for a European spot is over. This was their fourth draw in five games, but they're unbeaten in six and arguably results have improved under Miodrag Bozovic.

It will be interesting to see if the rumours of Muscovite budget cuts doing the rounds yesterday are true. The word is some key players might be shipped out to balance the books...


Spartak Nalchik 1-1 CSKA Moskva
Both these teams needed a win on Sunday. Thankfully this wasn’t interpreted as “Mustn’t lose so we’ll play all defensive”, and we had a rather good game of football in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic.

After turning over Zenit 3-1 on their own turf earlier in the week, CSKA were looking for victory to put pressure on Luciano Spalletti’s side before their game with Rostov, while Nalchik have aspirations of a Europa League spot.

The home supporters were out in the city drumming up support for the match, which was free entry, and it seemed to pay off. The atmosphere in the stadium was superb and Spartak Nalchik were playing some nice stuff; certainly they were the better side in the first half.

But they went behind when Seydou Doumbia won (“won” being the operative word) a penalty on the hour, which was duly dispatched by CSKA’s blue-dreadlocked dangerman Vágner Love.

Nalchik got a deserved point in the last minute though. After a spot of pinball on the edge of the box, Arsen Goshokov smashed in a superb equaliser that probably made Leonid Slutsky utter something a tad stronger than “gosh” as their faint title hopes ended.

Lokomotiv Moskva 1-1 Sibir Novosibirsk
Lokomotiv must’ve been clapping their hands when Goshokov scored, but failed to capitalise on their draw by being held at home to Sibir, whose relegation to the First Division was confirmed after just one season in the top flight.

Dmitri Sychev eventually found a way past a combination of Steve “sleeping policeman” Joseph-Renette, Nikola Valentic and Velice Sumulikoski (remember him, Ipswich and Preston fans?) to find the net with a superbly taken goal on 63 minutes, but Sibir pulled level to prevent Lokomotiv from pulling away from Spartak Nalchik in the European spots.

Dmitry Molosh, who has been known to belt them, walloped in a strike at the death.

It could have been so different if poor old Alan Gatagov hadn’t fluffed his lines while Loko were in front. The youngster suffered the ignominy of one of the season’s worst misses, and then further embarrassment when Rodolfo debagged him while he was lying on the floor. Luckily for Gatagov, it wasn’t the day he chose to go to work in his wife’s undies or anything embarrassing. Oops.

Spartak Moskva 0-0 Krylya Sovetov Samara
Domestically, Spartak’s season is over. They’ll certainly be in the Europa League next season and are free to concentrate on their Champions League game with Marseille next week.

Krylya have a horrible run-in and probably didn’t expect to get anything from this one, and they wouldn't have, were it not for Eduardo Lobos in nets for them.

He gave an assured performance and when the Brazilian was finally caught out by his fellow countryman Welliton, he failed to convert when well placed, while Dmitri Kombarov saw a shot hit the crossbar.

It’s Dinamo Moskva and Zenit St Petersburg in the Samaran’s final two fixtures and they’ll almost certainly need something from at least one of them…

Next fixtures: Sat 20 Nov Amkar Perm v Spartak Nalchik, Sibir Novosibirsk v Tom Tomsk, Anzhi Makhachkala v Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast, Krylya Sovetov Samara v Dinamo Moskva, Rostov v Lokomotiv Moskva, Rubin Kazan v Zenit St Petersburg, Alania Vladikavkaz v Terek Grozny, CSKA Moskva v Spartak Moskva