sports blog by andy shenk

Russian Cup Round of 16: Anzhi Makhachkala – Dinamo Moscow

In Anzhi, Russian Football on September 21, 2011 at 11:55 PM

Andy Shenk                                                                                                                           In Khimki on the evening of September 21, Anzhi and Dinamo met for the 3rd time this season. After drawing 2-2 in April, Anzhi defeated Dinamo 2-1 in August in controversial fashion. Anzhi’s winning goal that night came immediately after a mistaken call by the officials, and, with tempers flaring, the Anzhi and Dinamo benches cleared in a brawl that saw multiple players ejected from the field. In addition, Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev, a week after the match, was suspended four matches for misbehavior outside of the officials’ dressing room during halftime. The recent bad blood promised a hotly contested match for the Khimki crowd, as tonight the two teams would battle for a spot in the quarterfinals of the Russian Cup. Augmenting the Dinamo fans, several thousand Anzhi supporters in the guest sector – culled from the sizable Dagestani community that works and lives in the greater Moscow region – kept up a ferocious racket throughout the match. Adding even more drama to the match, Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev returned to the bench for the first time since late August. Though still banned from two more Russian Premier League matches, Gadzhiev could be with the team for Russian Cup matches.

Anzhi and Dinamo have been two of the Russian Premier League’s brightest surprises this season. Breathing life into a competition that has been dominated in recent years by Rubin Kazan and Zenit St. Petersburg, Dinamo and Anzhi are in the mix for Russia’s three Champions League and two Europa League berths. Dinamo, in particular, has excelled since manager Midrag Bozhovich was dismissed and replaced by Sergey Silkin in late April. Anzhi, of course, are the wonder of all Europe, having signed Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto’o, Balazs Dzudzak, Yuri Zhirkov, and Mbarak Boussoufa this season. Though their most recent signings have had little time to acclimate themselves to their new team, the Anzhi fan base is desperate for validation of owner Suleiman Kerimov’s astonishing expenditures. A demoralizing 1-0 loss on Sunday to Kuban Krasnodar did not help Anzhi’s mood, which has only collected 4 out of a possible 9 points since bringing over Samuel Eto’o from Inter Milan on August 25.

Anzhi’s lineup saw the return of midfielders Jusilei and Kamil Agalarov. With Jusilei on the right flank, and Yuri Zhirkov on the left, Boussouffa, Odil Akhmedov, and Agalarov completed the midfield. Roberto Carlos, Rasul Tagirbekov, Ali Gadzhibekov, and Jo Carlos played in defense, while Eto’o served as the lone striker and Nukra Revishvili stood in goal. Dinamo put two forwards up front – Kurani and Voronin. Nekhaichik, Yusupov, Samedov, and Semshov were midfielders. Leandro Fernandez, Granat, Luke Wilkshire, and Lomich defended and Shunin played in goal.

Almost immediately following kick-off, head official Eduard Malyi sought to cool any tempers, perhaps still hot from the August match in Makhachkala, showing yellow in the 5th minute to Anzhi captain Roberto Carlos and Dinamo veteran Igor Semshov. As for the play itself, both teams started slowly, with neither able to muster any threats in the early going. In the 14th minute Odil Akhmedov, reflecting Anzhi’s dominance to that point, finally sent a shot into Dinamo’s box, but it sailed wide. For all of Anzhi’s control, they failed to threaten Shunin or the Dinamo back line.

Following several promising attacks from Dinamo, Kurani finally put a shot on goal with a bicycle kick that caught Revishvili off-guard, though he still managed to gather it into his arms. In the 31st minute Revishvili again came through for Anzhi, deflecting at full stretch a shot from Dinamo midfielder Aleksandr Samedov. Samedov, however, operating on the right flank became a real thorn in Anzhi’s side, time and again crossing the ball to Dinamo’s muscular forwards Kurani and Voronin. Dinamo, despite its slow start, controlled the ball for much of the 1st half and looked far crisper and more creative going forward than Anzhi, which was reduced primarily to shutting down Dinamo’s many attacks. Roberto Carlos provided the sharpest proof of Anzhi’s determination at back, blocking a powerful shot in the box with his face.

In the last five minutes of the half, Anzhi finally showed a glimpse of why they had spent nearly 100 million dollars in the summer. Roberto Carlos sent one adventurous ball from outside the box just over the upper right corner of the goal in the 43rd minute. Moments later, Eto’o, receiving the ball 15 meters from the goal, juked his defender aside, and with his left smashed the ball at the upper left corner, only to be gamely blocked by an alert Shunin. Three corners for Anzhi followed, but without success. After one minute of added time, Malyi blew the whistle on the first half.

Anzhi had to be encouraged heading into the half, but unless they could solve Dinamo’s superb movement and opportunism up front, they looked unlikely to keep a clean sheet. And, despite Anzhi’s chances leading up to halftime, they still lacked any prolonged periods of possession and penetration into Dinamo’s territory. Dinamo was consistently quicker to the ball and able to disrupt Anzhi’s attempts to control the pace of the game.

The second half began well for Anzhi. Dinamo committed several fouls and, despite poor communication up front between Eto’o and his midfielders, Anzhi had some chances. Zhirkov, in particular, had success down the left flank and Dinamo became more and more frustrated by calls going against them.

Much like the first half, however, Dinamo turned up the heat after a slow start and in the 62nd minute Samedov forced Revishvili into a brilliant save at close quarters. For the next five minutes Dinamo mounted multiple attacks, yet never managed to crack Revishvili. Voronin, in the 67th, felt he’d earned a free kick just outside the box, but Malyi waved play on, much to Voronin’s disgust. A foul called soon after on Dinamo’s Australian defender Luke Wilkshire only served to further annoy the Moscow side.

In the 77th minute, Anzhi finally created a chance thanks to substitute Prudnikov, brought on in the 75th minute for Boussoufa. Racing down the right flank, Prudnikov spun a cross in to the closing Eto’o who, though free of his defenders, could only manage a weak tap on the ball, sent straight into Shunin’s arms.

As time wound down, Samedov continued to harrass Anzhi on the flank, helping himself to a corner and free kick. Revishvili deflected the latter in the 87th minute at the crossbars and neither team would see any more real chances in the half. Anzhi could be extremely grateful with the score 0-0. Barring a dramatic reversal of play, they would be lucky to snatch a goal in extra time. Dinamo, however, looked hungry and determined not to let matters go to penalty kicks.

Kurani and Samedov threatened in the 99th minute, but failed to put balls on target. Then, in the 102nd minute, Dinamo finally overcame Revishvili in controversial circumstances. Kurani received the ball in the box, and looking to shoot, spun, pulling Agalarov down in the process. The ball, weakly hit, bounced to Dinamo’s Kokorin (substitute in the second half for Nekhaichik), who just managed to boot it past Revishvili’s flailing arms and into the far corner. Revishvili, upon seeing the goal, protested in vain to Malyi for a foul to be called against Kurani. Kokorin, meanwhile raced to the stands, waving his shirt above his head in ecstasy.

The Anzhi fans, steady throughout the game with cries of “Anzhi, Anzhi, Anzhi” now picked up the tempo, trying to will their team on to an equaliser with cries of “We need a goal!”. Following Shamil Lakhiyalov’s substitution for Roberto Carlos in the 104th minute, the 1st period of extra time ended quietly.

In the second period, Anzhi threw the team forward recklessly forward. Now boasting four forwards in Eto’o, Prudnikov, Lakhiyalov, and Tardelli (brought on for Akhmedov), Anzhi were much more dominant on the attack. Zhirkov won several free kicks in quick succession, but to little avail. Finally, in the 115th minute, Eto’o dropped off a soft pass to the wide open Lakhiyalov on the left side of the goal. Dribbling once, then firing, Lakhiyalov fell to his knees in disbelief as he shot straight into the waiting Shunin’s arms. Two minutes later, Eto’o had one more chance, but headed wide of the goal. Distraught, Eto’o dropped face down on the ground. Moments later, however, Eto’o jumped to his feet, putting his hand around a Dinamo defender Leandro Fernandez’s neck. Immediately both teams clustered around Shunin’s goal, shoving and pushing. The crisis, however, was averted by the officials’ presence in the melee and decision to award both players yellow cards and Eto’o and Fernandez could be seen jogging down the field smiling.

That would be the end for Anzhi. Despite two extra minutes, Dinamo used their final substitution to drain precious time and a miserable 35 metre free kick from Tardelli that was easily cleared out by Dinamo brought Malyi’s final whistle. Dinamo advanced to the quarterfinals of the Cup, while Anzhi were left nursing their second consecutive defeat. Anzhi will have little time for tears, though, as Chechen rivals Terek come to town on Monday for the always vicious East Caucasus derby. Anzhi are now in desperate need of a victory to keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive, but, perhaps more importantly, in order to reestablish belief in themselves. Dinamo look forward to a Sunday match with bottom dwellers Krylyia Sovetov, having enjoyed four victories in a row and made it to 2nd place in the Premier League for the first time this season.

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