There were some remarkable twists and turns in Russia’s top flight during the 2013/14 season, with some high profile arrivals, the fall of Anzhi Makhachkala and CSKA Moscow recording an unexpected late surge to retain their Russian Premier League title. FIFA.com takes a look back at five games that shaped the season.
Tom Tomsk 2-2 Anzhi Makhachkala, 15 September 2013
On the opening matchday in mid-July, captain Samuel Eto’o scored Anzhi’s first goal of the domestic season against Lokomotiv Moscow, with other big money signings Willian, Mbark Boussoufa, Lassana Diarra and Christopher Samba also featuring. That game finished 2-2, with Eto’o missing a late penalty, but it was to be a game with Tom Tomsk that ended with the same scoreline just two months later that would define Anzhi’s season. The team was now unrecognisable from the opening day, as owner Sulemain Kerimov had decided in August to vastly reduce the club’s running costs. Guus Hiddink departed in late July, replaced by Rene Meulensteen who left within a month. Former Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev returned and saw Eto’o, Willian, Samba, Diarra and Boussoufa sold, along with a host of others, with the latter three joining domestic rivals. The game itself saw Anzhi come from behind to draw 2-2 at the bottom side, but they would slip to the foot of the table three weeks later, failing to win a game until after the winter break and succumbing to relegation in early May.
FC Krasnodar 4-0 Spartak Moscow, 22 March 2014
Krasnodar were founded in 2008, and theirs has been a remarkable rise to the upper echelons of Russian football. Promoted to the top flight for the 2011 season, they consolidated their position in the league in their first two campaigns but this season has seen them take their place as one of the top clubs in Russian football. It was this win that, in the end, saw them qualify for European competition for the first time in the young club’s history. Without a prolific goalscorer, and with former Krasnodar hotshot Yura Movsisyan lining up for the visitors, it seemed the hosts would struggle to improve on their 3-2 reverse at Spartak in September. However, it was one-way traffic, with Byki forward Ari scoring a hat-trick that ended up accounting for half of his goals in the entire 2013/14 league campaign. With both sides finishing on identical points and with the same number of wins at the conclusion of the season in May, the side’s head-to-head record split them, with Krasnodar taking fifth and a place in next season’s UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds.
Lokomotiv Moscow 0-0 Anzhi Makhachkala, 13 April 2014
With the winter break looming after the 18th matchday, Lokomotiv reached the top for the first time, reining in Zenit who had led the table for most of the season. Even though Loko slipped to second for the winter break after a 0-0 draw with Rubin Kazan, they regained the lead when the league resumed in March. They were on top for five weeks, but another goalless draw would see them lose their grip on the summit for the final time. Anzhi, bottom and fresh from just their second win of the season against Lokomotiv’s city rivals Dynamo, defended stoutly at the Lokomotiv Stadium and the hosts failed to find a way past Anzhi goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov, despite peppering his goal with shots and dominating possession. The side’s dream of a first title since 2004 faded as they slipped to second behind Zenit, resurgent under new coach Andre Villas-Boas.
Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 FC Volga, 26 April 2014
The Portuguese coach replaced the outgoing Luciano Spalletti in March looking to repair his reputation after being dismissed by English side Tottenham Hotspur. He took charge after Zenit’s UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund which allowed ‘AVB’ to focus on domestic matters. The side went on to win their opening five league games under Villas-Boas to equal the Russian record for most consecutive league wins for a new manager, and they would break that record when Volga came to visit. The final scoreline, courtesy of goals from Axel Witsel and Victor Faizulin, rather flattered the visitors in truth, with Zenit dominating proceedings from start to finish. The Sine-Belo-Golubye went top of the league in early April, and remained there until the final week.
CSKA Moscow 1-0 Lokomotiv Moscow, 15 May 2014
After the shocking scenes at the abandoned game between Zenit and Dynamo at the Petrovsky Stadium saw Dynamo awarded a 3-0 win, CSKA went into the final game leading the Premier League for the first time since mid-September. A remarkable run of nine wins in a row meant CSKA went into the final game of the season against city rivals Lokomotiv knowing a win would see them retain the title. However, Loko had title ambitions of their own, and a favourable result in Zenit’s match and a victory for the visitors would see them lift their first title in a decade. With so much at stake, the match itself was a tense affair, and Zoran Tosic’s sixth goal in eight games decided the match. Zenit won comfortably at Kuban Krasnodar to secure second place and a spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds, while Lokomotiv had to settled for third and a Europa League berth.