sports blog by andy shenk

Summer Special in Moscow: Spartak – Dynamo Kiev

In At The Game, Russian Football, Spartak on June 29, 2013 at 8:12 AM

I got to attend a nostalgic preseason friendly, Spartak – Dynamo Kiev, on Thursday evening. Click here to read the entire article or at the end of this excerpt.

It’s been decades since they battled for top honors in the Soviet league, but Spartak – Dynamo Kiev is still an important fixture, even when it’s a preseason friendly. Days in advance, 8,000-plus Muscovites bought up every available ticket for the match at Eduard Streltsov Stadium on the southeast edge of downtown Moscow.

Thursday’s match, the first of the four-team United Tournament, featuring Spartak, Zenit, Shakhtar and Dynamo, went to the visitors, 1-0, on an Oleg Gusev penalty in the 31st minute. The humidity and heat had a role in shaping the contest. Dynamo was content to sit back and focus on keeping Spartak out of the box and Spartak, despite dominant possession, couldn’t find a way to shake off their visitors’ sticky coverage. Water breaks in the 23rd and 67th minutes helped to further slow the pace.

Only Spartak season-ticket holders and the 15 Dynamo fans camped out behind the goal had access to the nostalgic fixture. With the evening sun overhead, complemented by bright red and white Spartak colors, it made for a beautiful summer spectacle.

In years past, the Soviet and Russian leagues always played through the summer, pausing only for international fixtures in early June and every other year for Euro and World Cup action. This year, despite the recent switch to an autumn-spring schedule, one could be forgiven for hardly noticing much difference. The 2013 Russian Cup final was on June 1 and the new season kicks off on July 14. Those are the terms dictated by Russia’s lengthy winter, which requires a three-month break from December to March. And so Spartak – Dynamo Kiev at the end of June felt very natural, almost a plunge back in time when midsummer fixtures between these clubs would gather enormous crowds in Kiev and Moscow, with bragging rights and title hopes on the line.

On the pitch, Spartak worked all night to pop centre forward Yura Movsisyan free. The Red and White’s midfield had little success at first, however, and paid for it with Dynamo’s penalty just past the half hour. For the rest of the period, Valery Karpin’s men attacked with more vigor. Recent midfield signing Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv) sent Movsisyan deep in the 35th, and though he brought the ball into the box, his attempt to center was wasted. A few moments later, winger Pavel Yakovlev eluded his man, but fired wide from 10 yards out. Midfielder Kim Kallstrom delivered a solid corner. And to close the half, Movsisyan, who moved to Spartak for €7.5m in the winter, missed out on three more chances. First, holding the ball deep in Dynamo territory, he failed to pick out a wide-open Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in the box. A minute later, gifted Spartak’s best chance of the half, Yura skied it well over the goal. Then, as added time expired, Dmitriy Kombarov earned a free kick from 20-25 yards out. Kombarov misdirected the Dynamo wall and Movsisyan rifled a low, bending shot at the left corner, but Dynamo goalie Maksym Koval was in place to scoop it up.

Cheers and jeers mingled as Spartak headed to the locker room. On that count, Karpin seemed a bit frustrated in the post-match press conference: “These are normal friendly games. No one is demanding a win at any cost.” But Spartak and Karpin’s bank of trust with the fans has been gradually eroding. It’s 10 years since the club won a title of any kind and 12 years since their last league title. Losing to historic rivals in front of a big crowd, Karpin, despite his feigned confusion, certainly understood what was going on.

Continue reading at Russian Football News.

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