Synopsis Russia : Zenit’s Zenith, Loveless Moscow and a New Czar

Zenit St. Petersburg was the straw that broke the Camel’s back. Rubin Kazan let the cat out the bag. In 2007, after years of domination by Moscow teams – Spartak, Lokomotiv and CSKA – Dick “the little General” Advocaat coached the Sine-Byelo-Goluboy (Blue-White-Sky-Blues) to its first ever Russian Premier league title, followed suit by winning the UEFA Cup and the rather innocuous UEFA Super Cup.

Since Zenit secured its place on the World football map, the club’s players have been subjects of numerous transfer rumors; Pavel Pogrebnyak to Blackburn or Bolton, Pavel Pogrebnyak to Munich (that has a nice ring to it), Arshavin to Arsenal, Tottenham, Barcelona, Man City, etc.

Even Scotland tried to get Arshavin nationalized following his man of the match performance against Rangers in the UEFA Cup final. OK, maybe not but after a year of the “Arshavin-saga”, the club is finally at calm and are out to prove they can compete with the loss of their Owl eyed star.

Five games into the Russian Premier League season, the league’s richest club courtesy of bottomless-pit-of-cash owners Gazprom (the same financiers of German club Schalke) have made a good start but committed a major faux pas during this past weekend tie at Lokomotiv Moscow. Against the Railroaders, Dick Advocaat fielded 7 foreign players at once – Fernando Meira, Danny (Portugal), Ivica Križanac (Croatia), Kim Dong-Jin (South Korea), Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Ukraine) and Szabolcs Huszti (Hungary). With the league cap at 6, Zenit face a fine and the possibility of points deduction. The tie finished one goal a piece.

It’s shaping up to be a rather tough season for newly promoted sides Rostov and Kuban Krasnodar. Russian First Division winners Rostov have found hit hard to hit the back of the net with 2 goals in 5 games so far but are proving to be sound defensively by conceding the same number of goals. Meanwhile the Canaries, following a momentous win in round 2 against Spartak Moscow, have slipped down the table and are without a win in 3 games with a weekend loss to Amkar Perm. It’s still early days though I reckon if the first few games are anything to go by, Rostov are better suited to remain in the Premier league whilst Kuban might find it hard to resist to drop.

No Love, no problem. Without talisman Vagner Love, the Zico reign at CSKA marched on as Milos Krasic took advantage of the shambolic defending by FC Khimki. His hat-trick sunk the beleaguered hosts who have yet to record a win this season, conceding in a whopping 11 goals in the process – the same number CSKA have tallied.

In weekend’s Moscow derby, FC Moscow’s shaggy Argentine striker “Braca” secured hero status with his lone goal. In a feisty match which resulted in a late sending off of the Caps’ Dmitri Tarasov, Saturn came ever so close to leveling the game in the final minutes but were unable to break down a compact FC Moscow side. The home loss sees Saturn drop to 13th while their city rivals are up to 6th.

The new czars of Russian football Rubin Kazan have continued last season’s exploits by drubbing a dynamite-less and dynamic-less Dynamo Moscow. Roman Sharonov put last year’s league champions ahead in the 10th minute which was followed by Alejandro Domiguez’ (on loan from Zenit) penalty. The game was signed, sealed and delivered when Dynamo midfielder Kirill Kombarov scored an own goal 15 minutes from time. Rubin occupy top spot and have let in just one goal all season.

Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow look early favorites for the league title – the latter welcome Rostov next week while Rubin host another Moscow team, Spartak.

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