Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup - Russia Preview

Russia kicks off their World Cup campaign against South Korea in Tuesday's late game, and I'm here to give you a preview of how they should perform and what their squad looks like going into their first World Cup in 12 years.

Qualifying Campaign:
Russia were solid if uninspiring through their qualifying campaign, going toe to toe with the established force of Portugal, but also struggling with lesser sides like Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan. The highlights of the qualifying campaign were certainly the 1-0 defeat of Portugal and 4-0 demolitions of Israel and Luxembourg. On the other hand, Capello's side will be disappointed with falling to a defeat against Northern Ireland and a draw and narrow win over Azerbaijan.

The Squad:
Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yuri Lodygin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Sergei Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan)

Aleksei Kozlov (Dynamo Moscow), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Andrei Semyonov (Terek Grozny), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Vasili Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Andrei Yeshchenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow)

Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Pavel Mogilevets (Zenit St. Petersburg/Rubin Kazan), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Dynamo Moscow), Aleksandr Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Victor Faizulin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Aleksei Ionov (Dynamo Moscow)

football formationsMaksim Kanunnikov (Rubin Kazan), Aleksandr Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Zenit St. Petersburg)

Notable Absences
Russia's captain, Roman Shirokov misses out thanks to injury, allowing Pavel Mogilevets (a player with only 13 professional matches under his belt) the chance to play. Most of the other large absences were due entirely to Capello's bizarre squad selection. The second highest RPL goalscorer this season, Artem Dzyuba, was oddly left in the standby squad in place of Maksim Kanunnikov, who was sub-par over the past year. Similarly, Mogilevets and Faizulin getting the call over Oleg Ivanov and Dmitri Tarasov in central midfield can only be seen as absurd. Further odd call ups were made in defence, as the underperforming Andrei Semyonov and Andrei Yeshchenko were selected in central defence in place of Vladimir Rykov and Dmitri Belorukov. Meanwhile, Aleksei Kozlov was selected over Roman Shishkin, Arseni Logashov and Igor Smolnikov in a decision that, while less bizarre, is certainly still puzzling.

The Group Stage Opponents:
South Korea
South Korea and Russia actually met in a friendly last October, and an under strength Russia side still managed to take a 2-1 win. Expect Russia to improve on that result with a much better (although still below full strength) squad, as opposed to that of South Korea, which looks like one of the four or five worst in the tournament on paper.
Prediction: 4-0 Russia

Belgium have been touted by many as dark horse contenders for the World Cup, and it's easy to see why. Despite lacking natural fullbacks, Belgium's defence is incredibly solid, with two outstanding keepers and a plethora of fantastic central defenders. The midfield is also incredibly strong, featuring players such as Eden Hazard, Mousa Dembele and Axel Witsel. On top of that, the 'Red Devils' have two very physical strikers in Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke that are capable of bullying even the best defenders, and should make light work of the aging Ignashevich and Berezutskiy.
Prediction: 2-1 Belgium

Despite clearing their qualifying group fairly comfortably, Algeria don't really look like threatening Belgium and Russia for the top two places. The African side is clearly strongest in midfield with the likes of Sofiane Feghouli, Nabil Bentaleb and Saphir Taider, but lack quality in most of the other areas of the squad, meaning that they will likely struggle to get a result against everyone except South Korea.
Prediction: 3-1 Russia

Possible Knockout Opponents:
The most likely option for Russia to play in the round of 16 is Germany, who sit as favourites for first place in Group G, and should thus play the second placed team in Group H. On top of this, Germany also sit as one of the favourites to take the tournament as a whole, and should overrun a weakened Russia in midfield, while a sturdy and capable defence will limit the chances that Russia has to score.
Prediction: 4-1 Germany

Having already played Russia in qualifying, Portugal are something of a known commodity for the Russia squad. Capello will want to take advantage of the lessons learned in the matches that the two teams contested and will look for the team to make an early impact on the game should they meet Portugal in the knockout rounds. Despite this and the positive result that Russia got against Portugal in October 2012, it seems likely that the Iberians will take the win, although in a much closer fought match than would be seen against Germany.
Prediction: 2-1 Portugal in extra time

Overall Prediction:
This Russia squad looks like a lock for second place in Group H behind Belgium, but the poor squad selection will likely limit any progression further than the round of 16. While it is possible that the squad manages to take first place from Belgium, it is far more likely that they will be the runners up and will thus have to face the winner of Group G. Both of the most likely options look like fairly comfortable winners against Capello's men, and if Germany indeed faces Russia, a rout seems likely.
Group Stage: 2nd
Round of 16: Knocked out by Germany or Portugal

Friday, June 13, 2014

2013-14 Russian Premier League Season Review

Apologies all for the late Season Review. Schoolwork and personal business came up and prevented me from completing it earlier.

This season featured one of the closest title races in RPL history. Lokomotiv and Zenit traded the lead for much of the season, before CSKA moved into first place in the second last matchweek and held on to take their second consecutive title. At the other end of the table, the significantly weakened Anzhi went through the entire first half of the season without a win and were ultimately relegated after being touted as title contenders at the opening of the season.

Final Table:
1 - CSKA
2 - Zenit
3 - Lokomotiv
4 - Dynamo
5 - Spartak
6 - Krasnodar
7 - Rostov
8 - Rubin
9 - Amkar
10 - Kuban
11 - Ural
12 - Terek
13 - Tomsk
14 - Krylia
15 - Volga
16 - Anzhi

The Surprises of the Season:

Anzhi Makhachkala
Anzhi started the season as title favourites, but financial issues with owner Suleyman Kerimov forced the club to sell most of their top earners. As a result, the team sank down the table and they were unable to get a win before the winter break. Their form took a turn for the better after returning from the break thanks to signing a number of players on loan, but it wasn't enough to even drag them away from top spot.

Lokomotiv Moscow
Lokomotiv were expected by many to finish in midtable thanks to their lack of significant transfer movement over the summer, but the consistency of the side helped them lead the table for much of the season. Their form started to tail off in the final few weeks, causing them to ultimately drop below Zenit, and then a loss to CSKA on the final day sealed their fate in third place.

Spartak Moscow
Spartak looked very much like title contenders at the beginning of the season, thanks to their deep strike force and capable midfield, but injuries in the centre of defence devastated the squad and led to a drop of form in the second half of the season. Manager Valeri Karpin lost his job after a poor run of results, however the side's form failed to take a turn for the better and they ultimately finished in fifth.

Rostov started the season as a rag tag bunch of loanees, but managed to string together some fantastic form and pulled off some incredible upsets. Spartak loanee Artem Dzyuba was the second top scorer in the RPL and Arseni Logashov was one of the better defenders in the league.

Team of the Season:
My team of the season is based on the number of appearances of each player in the Team of the Week in my Matchweek Recaps and is as follows:

Starting XI
GK - Yuri Lodygin - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Lodygin was a new signing at Zenit and went straight into the starting XI ahead of veteran keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev. Lodygin was prone to a few errors towards the end of the season, but was otherwise very solid and won the St Petersburg side points all on his own.

RB - Arseni Logashov - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
Logashov started the season under contract to Anzhi, but was sold to Lokomotiv who immediately sent on loan to Rostov, where he shone as one of the team's stars. He was first choice for the entire season and built a great partnership with Timofey Kalachev down the right flank, but somehow his form was not enough to warrant being called into the World Cup squad.

CB - Vedran Corluka - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
Corluka was solid as usual, and with him as an important cog, Lokomotiv's defence went on to be the best in the league. The Croatian did ultimately cost Zenit the title when he gave the ball away for CSKA to score in the final match, but errors like these were few and far between.

CB - Vladimir Rykov - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Rykov went on loan to Tom Tomsk from Dynamo Moscow and was easily the side's best player for the entire season. Another undeserving snub from the Russian World Cup squad, and a player that should see interest from a lot of RPL clubs after the end of his Dynamo Moscow contract.

LB - Vitali Denisov - 7 appearances in Team of the Week
Another key cog in Lokomotiv's excellent defence, Vitali Denisov was dominant driving down the left flank or defending solidly under pressure.

CM - Axel Witsel - 3 appearances in Team of the Week
Witsel was Zenit's standout player for the second straight season, defending incredibly well while also being a great creative force. The Belgian was under some doubt about taking the full defensive load on his own, but performed the role well and kept other, more experienced, midfielders on the bench.

CM - Oleg Ivanov - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
The third undeserving snub from the Russia squad, Oleg Ivanov, proved to be the best box to box midfielder in the RPL this season. It was Ivanov's first season since 2009 in which he was definite first choice, and he took the opportunity well, scoring 4 times and providing 2 assists in addition to his solid defensive work.

RW - Zoran Tosic - 6 appearances in Team of the Week
Zoran Tosic could be heralded as the man who won CSKA the title after his match-winning goal on the final day, but this was only the icing on the cake for the Serbian winger, who excelled yet again this season. He combined well with Mario Fernandes down the right flank and stepped up to become one of CSKA's most important players after the departure of Keisuke Honda, scoring 11 times in 27 games.

AM - Alan Dzagoev - 6 appearances in Team of the Week
Dzagoev had something of a stop start season thanks to injuries and suspensions, but still managed to get on the scoresheet himself 3 times, and set up other players a further 4 times in just 18 games. In addition to this tally, he was played deeper than he traditionally has been, being molded into something of a deep-lying playmaker, and this looks to be his role in the squad going forward.

LW - Jose Manuel Jurado - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Jurado started the season fantastically and, despite his form taking a turn for the worse along with the rest of Spartak in the second half of the season, the Spaniard still managed to score 8 times in 29 games.

ST - Seydou Doumbia - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
Doumbia continued his difficult return from injury after missing much of the 2012-13 season due to a back problem, and managed to play 22 of the 30 possible games this turn. In these games, the Ivorian scored 18 times and assisted 7 further goals in an impressive tally for any player, let alone one who had struggled with injuries for more than a year.

football formationsBench
GK - Igor Akinfeev - 3 appearances in Team of the Week

RB - Mario Fernandes - 5 appearances in Team of the Week

CB - Xandao - 4 appearances in Team of the Week

CM - Christian Noboa - 3 appearances in Team of the Week

AM - Wanderson - 5 appearances in Team of the Week

RW - Hulk - 3 appearances in Team of the Week

ST - Artem Dzyuba - 4 appearances in Team of the Week

Thanks for reading everyone. Now that I have some free time, you should expect to see my preview for Russia in the upcoming World Cup before they kick off against South Korea on Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2013-14 Matchweek 30 Recap: CSKA secure title on last day

Hey everyone, this is (obviously) the final Matchweek Recap of the season, although over the next few days you'll be getting a season review and my team of the season selections. In footballing terms, what a cracking matchweek to end it on, with CSKA edging Lokomotiv to steal the title from under Zenit.

Tomsk 3-2 Rostov

Pavel Nekhaychik opened the scoring for Tomsk before Rostov were struck by injuries early on, losing Vitali Djakov and Arseni Logashov early in the first half. Kirill Panchenko grabbed a brace after half time, but Dmitri Poloz pulled one back with mere minutes to play. Despite a red card to Guelor Kanga Kaku, Florent Sinama-Pongolle was able to get a second for Rostov, but it wasn't enough to take a result.

Volga 1-2 Ural
Vladimir Koman scored a penalty on the stroke of half time and Aleksandr Sapeta made it two after the interval. Artur Sarkisov managed to score for the hosts with ten minutes remaining, but it proved to be only a consolation goal for the already-relegated Volga.

football formations Amkar 2-2 Krasnodar
Konstantin Vassiliev put the hosts in front with a good effort, but Mauricio Pereyra hit back with the equaliser immediately. Krasnodar carried this momentum to go ahead through the little-seen Sergei Petrov before Igor Picusceac got the last laugh and equalised for Amkar.

Anzhi 0-1 Krylia

In a dull affair, Artem Delkin got the only goal of the game just after half time, while substitute Serder Serderov was sent off in stoppage time for violent conduct.

Spartak 3-2 Dynamo

Dynamo went up by two goals thanks to strikes either side of half time by Gheorge Florescu and Aleksei Ionov before Spartak really got into the game. It wasn't long after Ionov's goal that Jose Jurado pulled one back, and Sergei Parshivlyuk got the equaliser a quarter of an hour after that. With the game coming to a close, Artur Yusupov gave away a penalty that Dmitri Kombarov scored to complete a memorable comeback and steal fifth place out from under Krasnodar's noses.

Rubin 1-1 Terek
This match was dull for the majority, aside from a few second half minutes in which both sides managed to score. It was Andrei Semenov who put Terek in front with his only goal of the season, before Rubin's substitute Kamil Mullin scored his own first goal of the season to equalise.

Kuban 1-4 Zenit
Despite an injury to Vyacheslav Malafeev, Zenit overran Kuban for much of the match, with all of Axel Witsel, Salomon Rondon and Oleg Shatov scoring before Lorenzo Melgarejo pulled one back for Kuban. His goal proved only to be a consolation when Hulk added a fourth in stoppage time.

CSKA 1-0 Lokomotiv

CSKA looked trumped by Lokomotiv for much of the match and couldn't score in the first half. Ultimately, the only goal came when Vedran Corluka made an awful backpass that allowed Zoran Tosic to score an impressive goal from range and take the title.

Final Table:
1 - CSKA
2 - Zenit
3 - Lokomotiv
4 - Dynamo
5 - Spartak
6 - Krasnodar
7 - Rostov
8 - Rubin
9 - Amkar
10 - Kuban
11 - Ural
12 - Terek
13 - Tomsk
14 - Krylia
15 - Volga
16 - Anzhi

Thursday, May 15, 2014

CSKA 1-0 Lokomotiv: CSKA secure second consecutive RPL title

CSKA managed to clinch the title in an exhilarating decider with a 1-0 win over Lokomotiv at home.

CSKA lined up exactly as expected, however Lokomotiv played a somewhat bizarre set of players. Vedran Corluka was able to return from suspension in the centre of defence, however Renat Yanbaev continued to start over the much more consistent and impressive Roman Shishkin at right back. Also, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Aleksei Miranchuk and Sergei Tkachev started over Dame N'Doye, Mbark Boussoufa and Maicon respectively, the latter two choices seeming questionable at best.

CSKA needed a win to guarantee the title win, however neither side was able to get the upper hand early as Zenit went ahead after just 15 minutes through Axel Witsel to bump the St. Petersburg side into first place. It was Alan Dzagoev that had the best chance of the half for either team when he headed the ball just wide from a free kick, but it failed to trouble Guilherme. Another 10 minutes passed before anything changed in the title race, as Zenit extended their lead through a Salomon Rondon header. The lack of chances ensured that both Moscow sides went into the interval trailing Zenit in the title race, prompting Leonid Kuchuk to substitute Roman Shishkin on for Sergei Tkachev.

The title scene changed immediately after half time as CSKA were able to take the lead straight away. An abysmal back pass from Vedran Corluka was intercepted by Zoran Tosic, who finished low from outside the box to put CSKA into first place. The hosts then continued to build on this by attacking all out, and Dzagoev almost set up Pontus Wernbloom, but the Swede blazed the ball over the bar. Lokomotiv tried to change the game by introducing N'Doye and Boussoufa, but this failed to have a major impact as CSKA continued to push forward, threatening Guilherme's goal often. This was only to last a short while however, as the introduction of Ahmed Musa in place of Dzagoev compromised CSKA defensively, and Loko experienced a slight resurgence. Igor Akinfeev was forced to face several free kicks from dangerous positions, but was equal to all of the efforts. CSKA's defence got increasingly nervy as time went on, and a Vitali Denisov throw in with a minute of regular time left to play caused serious problems for the hosts, but it was eventually cleared and proved to be the final chance of the match. CSKA closed it out well and managed to take the title, despite Zenit's 4-1 win over Kuban in Krasnodar.

football formations Player of the Match: Georgi Schennikov
Schennikov bossed CSKA's left flank all game and shut down the in-form Aleksandr Samedov. An all around excellent performance from the 23-year-old.

Honourable Mentions:
Igor Akinfeev - Kept CSKA in the lead in the dying minutes of the match.
Zoran Tosic - Was largely invisible but did manage to get the title-clinching goal, so of course he gets a mention.

- Lokomotiv came into this with almost no chance of securing the title, but they did themselves no favours and will now have to settle for third place. Disappointing way for them to end the season.
- I like Vedran Corluka, but good god that pass was awful. I will not be surprised at all if he receives death threats from Zenit fans in the coming weeks and months.
- These two teams have the best fullback pairings in the league, and CSKA certainly came out on top in that respect, although that can probably be attributed to Kuchuk's inexplicable dropping of Shishkin from the first XI.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2013-14 Matchweek 29 Recap: Title race opens right up

Hey everyone! Because I'm absolutely awful (and I had exams), you haven't heard from me for more than a week. Never fear, I'm back just in time for the final matches of the season and a whole lot of post-season content that will blow you all away (not really, but you get the idea).

In footballing terms, this past matchweek saw the title race become a whole lot more interesting, as Zenit and Lokomotiv losses allowed CSKA to take the lead going into the final matchweek. As it stands, CSKA will take the title if they can beat Loko, while Zenit have to win and rely on Loko to get points at CSKA. The only way Loko can get the title themselves is if they beat CSKA and Zenit fail to beat Kuban.

football formations Ural 2-1 Kuban
Ural were impressive in attack against Kuban, yet despite their early dominance, they had to rely on a penalty to take the lead, when Gerson Acevedo converted in the 27th minute. It took only 9 minutes for the man who gave away the penalty, Vladislav Ignatiev, to redeem himself and equalise, but he was unable to make any further impact before he was substituted in the second half. Meanwhile, Ural continued to be the more impressive team and were rewarded for their persistence when substitute Denis Dorozhkin put away the winner with just 7 minutes remaining.

Krylia 0-4 Rubin
Despite the scoreline, Krylia actually played much better than Rubin, but their profligacy, combined with Rubin's excellent finishing, cost them the game. Mubarak Wakaso was the only player to convert in the first half, but Rubin opened the floodgates after the interval and poured in three more through Pavel Mogilevets, Sardar Azmoun and Marko Devic to score four goals with just four shots on target and take the three points.

Spartak 1-0 Amkar
Spartak were able to halt their three game losing streak thanks to an overly defensive lineup against Amkar. The hosts kept three central defenders for most of the match and played Dmitri Kombarov and Sergei Parshivlyuk as wing-backs. It was Yura Movsisyan who got the match's only goal just after the half hour mark, and it was enough for Spartak to hold on for the three points.

Terek 2-0 Volga

Terek soundly overwhelmed Volga, but Sergei Pareiko kept the visitors in it for far longer than he had any right to. It was the ever brilliant Oleg Ivanov who opened the scoring with only a quarter of an hour to play, and Denis Kolodin was sent off shortly afterwards. Substitute Jeremy Bokila added the finishing blow in stoppage time to give Terek the win.

Zenit 2-4 Dynamo

Oh boy, this game deserves a standalone article, but unfortunately I'm pressed for time, so this is all you'll get. Danny put the hosts ahead after just 6 minutes, but Dynamo managed to score four goals unanswered as Zenit struggled to do anything at all with the ball. Substitute Aleksandr Kerzhakov managed to pull one back, but seeing that the title was slipping out of their hands, Zenit's fans stormed the pitch, causing the match to be abandoned and the points awarded to Dynamo.

CSKA 2-0 Tomsk
CSKA were quite clearly the better side, but it still took a Renat Sabitov own goal after an hour for them to take the lead, and they were occasionally threatened by the visitors before Seydou Doumbia finished it off in stoppage time.

Krasnodar 1-0 Anzhi
Anzhi were impressively dominant, but were unable to overcome an early Andreas Granqvist goal despite Fyodor Smolov rattling the crossbar in the second half. This defeat means that their extremely disappointing season has definitely resulted in their relegation.

Rostov 2-0 Lokomotiv

Rostov had to cope with the absence of Loko loanee Arseni Logashov, but still managed to take the lead when Vitali Djakov put the ball in the back of the net. It was captain Timofey Kalachev who killed the game off in the 67th minute and almost certainly doomed Loko's title chase.

1 - CSKA
2 - Zenit
3 - Lokomotiv
4 - Dynamo
5 - Krasnodar
6 - Spartak
7 - Rostov
8 - Kuban
9 - Rubin
10 - Amkar
11 - Terek
12 - Ural
13 - Tomsk
14 - Krylia
15 - Volga
16 - Anzhi

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lokomotiv 1-1 Zenit: Exhilarating title clash ends in fair draw

A ridiculously entertaining match between the two main contenders for the RPL title has ended in a draw, maintaining Zenit's advantage in the title chase with only two matches left to play.

Lokomotiv lined up a little strangely, as Lassana Diarra and Maicon continued to miss out due to injuries, while Vedran Corluka was dropped thanks to his suspension. However, the more controversial lineup decision was the inclusion of Renat Yanbaev over regular left back Vitali Denisov. On a more positive note, Mbark Boussoufa and Dame N'Doye were able to return to the lineup, however in the latter case, this required dropping the in-form Roman Pavlyuchenko from the starting XI. Zenit, on the other hand, lined up mostly as expected.

Neither side was particularly dominant in the early stages, although Lokomotiv were perhaps the better of the sides, having two good chances early on. After just eight minutes, Aleksandr Samedov sent him a cross that N'doye headed at goal, but Yuri Lodygin was able to make the save easily. It was twelve minutes before either side really had another good chance, and it was Lokomotiv again when a Samedov free kick rattled the crossbar, but ultimately came to nothing when the rebound was put out by Sergei Tkachev. However, it proved to be the next major chance that broke the deadlock fifteen minutes later. Jan Durica's overhead clearance failed dramatically, falling straight to Salomon Rondon, who fired through Durica's legs and past Ilya Abaev to give Zenit the lead. Zenit then held the ball for much of the rest of the half, not really threatening Lokomotiv's goal again but also not really being threatened themselves.

football formationsHalftime saw no changes from either team and Zenit came out in much the same way they had finished the half, but that soon changed as Lokomotiv started circulating the ball more and forcing Zenit into defence. However, before they could put any chances at goal together, the stadium was filled with smoke as fans set off flairs and smoke bombs, temporarily preventing the game from continuing. When the game resumed, Lokomotiv continued to push, but were almost hit on the break by Hulk, but Abaev was equal to his strong effort. The game then developed into something of a comedy, as both the referee and one of the linesmen inadvertently interfered with play, and the referee was injured in the process, leading to him being replaced by the fourth official, which took up roughly five minutes. A few minutes after play restarted, Danny went through on goal and gave the ball to Oleg Shatov in front of an open goal, but Roman Shishkin was able to make a game saving tackle and force a corner which came to nothing. Lokomotiv went straight back up the other end and Lodygin fumbled a cross to Sergei Tkachev, who slotted away coolly. Suffering an equaliser forced Zenit into action, and they almost took the lead when Hulk played Aleksandr Anyukov through with an excellent pass, but the right back cross for nobody in particular.

Both sides had a few half-chances in regular time, but ultimately the referee (now fourth official) indicated that there was to be seven minutes of stoppage time. Substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko had a chance to score but got the ball caught up in his feet and was dispossessed, before Boussoufa created space with some excellent footwork and floated in a cross, but it was too high for Samedov and Pavlyuchenko. Witsel then created space down the other end and had a shot on goal, but it was blocked by Yanbaev and the game then ended in a draw.

Man of the Match: Axel Witsel
Witsel was excellent all game, dictating Zenit's play when they were in control, but also defending well when they were under pressure in the second half.

Honourable Mentions:
Nicolas Lombaerts - Defended solidly and distributed well from the back. A solid performance from the Belgian.
Sergei Tkachev - Scored the equaliser and was good cutting in off that left flank right until he was substituted.
Lassana Diarra - Came off the bench and really got Lokomotiv back into the game with some great all around play.

- This game really had everything. Keeper mistakes, referee injuries, spectator interference and boots to the head (Nicolas Lombaerts on Roman Pavlyuchenko late on), as well as some fantastic and entertaining football.
- The inclusion of N'Doye and Yanbaev really can't be explained. Roman Pavlyuchenko looked much better than N'Doye once the switch was made, while Yanbaev did a poor job of stopping Hulk.
- The narrow play of Zenit caused real problems for Lokomotiv in the first half, but the hosts managed to counteract that after the break (especially after Diarra's introduction) and were outnumbered in midfield far less.
- Seriously, this game. Wow.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2013-14 Matchweek 27 Recap: So many penalties

Matchweek 27 saw an inordinate number of penalties (seven awarded in eight games) and the continuation of Spartak's woeful form, which could very well see them falling out of the European qualification places.

Krylia 2-2 Amkar

Georgi Peev scored an early penalty for Amkar, before Sergei Kornilenko had one saved in the second half, but knocked in the rebound nonetheless. Artem Delkin gave the hosts the lead just six minutes later, before Peev's second of the game equalised with thirteen minutes to play. Both sides had chances in the final minutes, but neither was able to capitalise and get the win.

Ural 0-0 Tomsk
Ural could be considered the better side, but their profligacy prevented them from picking up the three points. Spartak Gogniev had a chance to score from the penalty spot in the second half, but his effort was saved by Ilie Cebanu.
football formations

Zenit 2-0 Volga
Zenit completely overran Volga and probably should have scored more, but the score was kept down by the excellent Sergei Pareiko. Axel Witsel opened the scoring mid way through the first half, which was followed up shortly before the interval by Danny missing a penalty, which was the single blemish in an otherwise fantastic performance from the Portuguese international. With the game winding down and Volga showing no sign of mounting a dangerous attack, Victor Faizulin killed the game off and secured the three points for the league leaders.

Krasnodar 1-3 Lokomotiv

Alexei Miranchuk gave Loko the lead after just six minutes, and the first half was a back and forth affair that ultimately spiraled out of control in the final minutes. Joaozinho scored an equaliser and Aleksandr Samedov missed a penalty immediately before the interval. The second half was much more muted, but it was Samedov who made up for his error earlier, scoring twice in stoppage time to take the win.

CSKA 2-1 Rubin

Alan Dzagoev scored just thirteen minutes into his return from suspension to give CSKA the lead throughout the majority of the first half. Aleksandr Prudnikov equalised just minutes after half time, before Seydou Doumbia scored a penalty (seriously, there were so many this weekend) to give CSKA the win and keep them in the title chase.

Rostov 1-1 Anzhi
Rostov went ahead through an Artem Dzyuba penalty, before the dismissal of Alexandru Gatcan put the hosts under significant pressure. This allowed substitute Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to equalise with ten minutes to play, but Anzhi were unable to get a second goal to steal the win.

Terek 1-0 Dynamo
Dynamo controlled possession, but were incredibly wasteful with their shooting and thus were unable to capitalise on their dominance. Terek's Mauricio scored the match's only goal shortly after half time, and the hosts were able to hold on to take a shocking win.

Spartak 0-2 Kuban
Similarly to Dynamo, Spartak maintained possession, but were unable to put the ball in the back of the net, thanks in part to the fine form of Aleksandr Belenov. It was Ivelin Popov who scored twice in the second half to steal a win and continue Spartak's abysmal run of form.

1 - Zenit
2 - Lokomotiv
3 - CSKA
4 - Dynamo
5 - Spartak
6 - Krasnodar
7 - Amkar
8 - Rostov
9 - Kuban
10 - Rubin
11 - Terek
12 - Ural
13 - Krylia
14 - Tomsk
15 - Volga
16 - Anzhi