Of Olimpicos and Youth – Russian Superliga Matchday Two

Despite all the odds on favorites triumphing, the second matchday of the Russian Superliga managed to match the opening day excitement of last week. We even got to witness the first 0-0 of the season! Amazing! Let’s recap the midweek action.

Champions CSKA got us started early on Thursday with an away win in Krasnoyarsk. Just like on Saturday, Gabrielle Onguéné and Nadezhda Smirnova found the back of the net, with the former netting a brace to take her tally to three goals in two games – she is already just one goal shy of matching her tally of the previous campaign – and the latter converting her second penalty of the season in a 3-0 victory over Yenisey.

Elsewhere, Zenit and Zvezda Perm played out the first scoreless draw of the season in what was the St. Petersburg side’s inaugural home game. Curiously, Yulia Grichenko got the start between the sticks this time for Zenit after her surprising exclusion from the starting line-up on opening day, while Daria Shkvara saw her red card from the match against CSKA rightfully rescinded. Although a 0-0 is never a satisfying result, it is the first point in club history for Zenit. You know, silver linings.

Speaking of firsts, FK Krasnodar scored their first goals, got their first red card, and recorded their first win under new ownership as they beat Ryazan 2-0. A penalty from Anna Sinko and a spectacular late strike from Polya Organova were enough to see off the four-time Russian champions, but it wasn’t without controversy. Krasnodar were down to ten for the best part of 72 minutes and the trajectory of the game could have changed drastically had the usually so prolific Ksenia Tsybutovich converted the penalty Ryazan were awarded in first half stoppage time.

Undoubtedly, the most exciting action of the round took place in Moscow. Chertanovo went head-to-head with Lokomotiv and boy, did this game ever start with a bang. Lok were the household favorites going into the match but 21-year-old midfielder Viktoria Dubova had other ideas. The Devils of Chertanovo were awarded a corner in the sixth minute and Dubova put so much swerve, so much sauce, even, on the ball that it went straight into the back of the net, leaving Lok keeper Ekaterina Miklashevich dumbfounded.

Chertanovo managed to hang on to their one-goal advantage until half time, but in the end, Loko’s quality shone through and they ran out 3-1 winners despite missing last year’s golden boot winner Nelli Korovkina. Lok wore done Chertanovo’s defense and the youngsters lost faith after the equalizer. They failed to create any meaningful chances all game, but especially in the second half, and their marking on set pieces left a lot to be desired. Lokomotiv’s go-ahead goal, in particular, highlighted Chertanovo’s defensive frailties. Nobody was in the vicinity of Anna Belomyttseva, who had a free header on goal after a corner, and despite one of the many stunning saves Diana Ponomareva produced all afternoon, Lok captain Anna Kozhnikova was there to blast the rebound into the roof of the net from about a yard out. You could see Chertanovo players being unsure of who they should mark on subsequent corners, so there’s clearly a lot of work left to be done on the training ground.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Devils, though, as they continue to leave their mark as Russia’s talent factory. After naming a starting eleven with an average age of 19.5 years against Ryazan last weekend, coach Sergei Lavrentyev took it one step further by reducing it by another year to an absolutely absurd 18.5 years. Four 17-year-olds and two 16-year-olds got the start and even captain Kristina Komissarova is just 19 years of age. Looking at Chertanovo’s roster, you’ll find that the oldest member of the squad, Ksenia Dzhinikashvili, was born in 1997, while four players were born in 2004. Ridiculous.

Lok’s Alsu Abdullina going up against her former employer (Source: Chertanovo)

This game also marked the first clash of highly-rated Lok teenager Alsu Abdullina with her former club. After a standout campaign with the Devils in 2019, Abdullina made the move to last season’s runners-up with the intention of winning silverware. Versatile, solid technique, dangerous on set-pieces, physical, and with good defensive awareness; the 19-year-old has it all, leading to some experts (me, mainly just me) comparing her to Lena Oberdorf. After spending last season playing everywhere from the center-forward position, to left-back, and even at center-back or out on the wing, Abdullina has found her place at left full-back for Lok, starting both games there and being solid if unspectacular.

Abdullina wasn’t the only one reunited with Chertanovo either. Head coach Elena Fomina spent some of her formative years with the Moscow club, so too did current Lok players Kristina Mashkova, Yana Sheina, Kristina Cherkasova, and Nelli Korovkina even had two stints with Chertanovo. Although the defeat to their crosstown rivals leaves the Devils second from bottom, their youth work is invaluable to Russian football and results are fairly immaterial in the grand scheme of things.


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