Football fever returns to Russia
Tough but goalless battle in Perm
In the fixture that kicked off the proceedings for the year, Amkar, fresh from their best ever domestic placing of 4th last season, hosted league newboys FC Rostov.
It was the home side that started playing brighter. But Rostov showed that they were up for the challenge.
The second period began with both sides losing a player. Amkar’s Zaharin Sirakov and Rostov’s Hong Yong-Cho got their second yellow cards and were sent off.
It seemed to spur Amkar on more though – resulting with the Perm side putting the ball in the net twice. But both strikes were ruled out.
0-0 is how it finished – just reward for a tightly contested affair.
Dynamo bears away first Moscow derby
The first day saw this year's first city derby between Dynamo and FC Moscow.
A lot is expected from Dynamo this year following their surge up the table during the latter part of last season. They finished third overall.
And their high-tempo start on Saturday looked to have borne fruit with three minutes left in the first half. Argentine’s Leandro Fernandez prodded the ball over the line but it was ruled out for being off-side.
FC Moscow, themselves, should have scored just moments later but Martin Jakubko shot low. The visitors began the second half the same way they ended the first – causing no end of trouble for the Dynamo defense, though it was fruitless.
While Dynamo got the vital breakthrough right at the death – great work from Dmitry Kombarov down the flank resulted in Aleksandr Kerzhakov using his strength to nod home in injury time.
Loko unable to lean on Khimki
Dynamo’s cross-town rivals, Lokomotiv, were much less lucky on Saturday.
The railway men needed to fight back from a one-goal-deficit to earn a point at home to Khimki.
Khimki scored in the first half from the resulting corner kick. Dragan Blatnjak's set-piece finding Miodrag Jovanovic in the box, and the Serb made no mistake from close range, scoring his first goal for the club.
The home side should have equalized straight away – but Loko’s captain, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, headed it too high to trouble the keeper.
Loko kept wasting chances in the debut of the second half.
Loko coach Rashid Rakhimov's frustration was gaining momentum as the railway men just couldn't hit the target. Until Denis Glushakov said enough was enough – deciding to go it alone.
A masterpiece by the 22-year-old became his club's first goal of the season.
Loko went on controlling the game, but no more goals came – much to the disappointment of Rakhimov.
“I think the players did well tonight, there were some mistakes but overall they did a good job. But I can't say the result is fair. We should've taken our chances and won this game. However, with the way we played in the second half, we're going to be OK this season,” said Rakhimov after the game.
Indeed, a 1-1 draw will feel more like a loss for Loko, who needs to put last season's frustrating 7th place finish behind them. While Khimki also added a point towards what could be a potential relegation dogfight for them.
Holders Rubin destroy neophyte Kuban
The last, but by no means least, game of the day saw reigning champions Rubin get their campaign off to a winning start at the expense of Kuban.
3-0 is the score with all the goals coming in a half hour period. Alekandr Bukharov got the ball rolling 25 minutes in before Russian national captain Sergey Semak saw his effort dribble across the line for a 2-0 lead seven minutes later.
The one-way traffic continued in the second half with Rubin essentially ending the game as a contest 10 minutes after the break.
The action will continue on Sunday with last year’s runners-up, CSKA, visiting Saturn, North Caucasus derby Terek vs Spartak Nalchik, Tom’ examining Krylya Sovetov on a neutral pitch, and finally the battle of the titans – the two most popular Russian sides, Spartak Moscow and Zenit, who are eager to rehabilitate themselves after last season’s unconvincing performance.