Sunday, August 31, 2008

Get Ya Rooks Off!

After beating Woking 3-2 at home, then losing 4-3 away to Histon and then drawing 2-2 at home with Kidderminster the game between Burton Albion and Lewes always promised to be a goal fest and we weren't disappointed.

Burton started off as if they meant business and nobody was surprised when Greg Pearson fired the Brewers ahead after just 10 minutes with his cleverly picked out goal, which was his 5th already this season. However, the lead didn't last for long and Scott Taylor levelled things due to a defensive error on 15 minutes. Another Burton mistake led to Lewes going 2-1 up just 4 minutes later, when Adam Yates, who is on loan from Morecambe fell over and handled the ball in the box. Michael standing levelled from the spot.

Nigel Clough, the Burton manager has said that although he is happy that Burton seem to be able to get goals from anywhere, he isn't happy with the number of errors the team are making defensively and today would have been no different. At the same time it must be remembered that the goalkeeper, Kevin Poole is 45 years old and Darren Stride, who was playing centre back used to play centre midfield and Aaron Webster at left back was always a winger in the past, so this predicament of scoring but leaking goals might be understandable in this context.

Cloughie probably would have been more upset though if Adam yates hadn't made ammends just 4 minutes later on 23 minutes, when his inch perfect cross was met by man of the match, Keith Gilroy to slot home the equaliser. And that is the way things stood until half time.

Burton looked a lot stonger after the break and the midfield seemed to be giving Lewes the run around. On 60 minutes Burton recovered the lead when Aaron Webster headed home from a corner. On 71 minutes Shaun Harrad, who had come on to replace Greg Pearson at half time celebrated being called up for the England C team with a goal after Gilroy had jinxed down the left wing and put in another perfect cross.

At 4-2 you might have thought things would calm down, but everyone spurred on Burton to score again. I can't have been alone in feeling that they might just let Lewes back into this game. In fact I'm sure I wasn't as Nigel Clough said much the same in his post-match press conference. Therefore, it came as a great relief when in the last minute Aaron Webster scored another header, this time a diving header which went off the inside of the post to make the final score Burton 5 Lewes 2.

The 2 pictures show the Burton ground before kick off, but you didn't expect me to take photos during such an enthralling game, did you?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Club Focus - Lewes FC

Today's visitors to Burton are Lewes FC, and the Rooks, as they are known, must be suffering from a nose bleed as the Conference National is the highest league they have ever been in.

Lewes were formed in 1885 and prior to 1920 they played in the West Sussex League before being promoted to the Sussex League where they stayed until 1965 when they were promoted to the Athenian League Division 2. In 1968 they won promotion to Division 1. In 1977 they were again promoted, this time to the Isthmian League division 2 and 3 years later made it to division 1 where they remained until 1991 when a rot set in. Two years later they found themselves in division 3 of the Isthmian.

In 1998 the former Northern Ireland International, Jimmy Quinn, took charge of the club and steered them to 2 consecutive promotions up to the Isthmian League Division 1 South.

In 2003-2004 Lewes won promotion to the Conference South and at the end of last season finally managed to get into non-league's promised land of the Conference National.

The Rooks play at the strangely named 'Dripping Pan' ground, which was used for sport even before the football club was formed in 1885. Nobody knows the origins of the name of the ground, although it has been suggested that it was the name of the pub.

The club originally wore a green strip, but settled on black and red stripes in 1893.

The locals are not known for their open-mindedness and tolerance, their traditional bonfire celebrations include burning an effigy of the Pope, and although this has an historical background, (17 protestant martyrs were put to death by Pope Paul 5th in the early 17th Century) in 2001 they burned an effigy of Osama Bin Laden and in 2003 a gypsy caravan. So not the most pleasent of folk it might be deduced.

Monday, August 25, 2008

From Bad to Worse

I didn't actually make it to the Burton v Kidderminster game today and had to make do with Rocester v Cradley Town in the Midlands Football Alliance.

To try and be nice, the programme was  fairly well put together, as usual, and the cider was nice and the chips that the kids had looked fairly good; however the football was fairly dreadful.

Cradley had most of the chances in the first half, but had probably 2 of the worst finishers in the history of the MFA, although to be fair the Rocester goalkeeper, Paul Wood, was on pretty good form. Rocester on the other hand probably had one shot on target all match.

It came as no surprise then when Cradley opened the scoring early in the second half, however Rocester were thrown a lifeline with about 10 minutes to go when the Cradley keeper handled the ball outside the box and received his marching orders. As they had already used all of their substitutes an outfield player had to take his place. However, despite pushing everyone forward, Rocester were hit on the break as Cradley made it 2-0. Rocester were again unable to get a shot on target and in the end Cradley ran out 2-0 winners in a game where both teams underperformed.

Notes on photos from top to bottom

The shelter opposite the clubhouse, which wasn't shown on previous pictures of Hillsfield.

The start of the second half

The Cradley keeper gets his marching orders.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Club Focus - Kidderminster Harriers

I won't be able to go to a game this Saturday, so the next match I will see will be the bank holiday showdown between Burton Albion and Kidderminster Harriers at the Pirelli Stadium.

Kidderminster Harriers are an ex-league team, who have been responsible for an interesting few records. They were founder members of the Birmingham and District League in 1889, they were the first team to hold a floodlit FA Cup match (in a preliminary round game against Brierley Hill in 1955, which they won 4-2), the first team to have a match officiated by a team of all females ( against Nuneaton Borough in 1999 - they won 2-1) and were involved in the first match at the new Wembley in 2007 (the FA Trophy final, which they lost 3-2 to Stevenage Borough).

Kidder despite having played in the league have never really been one of non-league's giants, mainly because of the support for bigger league teams in their area. They were formed from an athletics and rugby team in 1886, hence the strange name. They were founder members of the Birmingham and District League and remained there until 1938.  They were then promoted to the Southern League, but due to World War 2 didn't play more than a couple of games until 1948.

In 1960 they were relegated back to the Birmingham Senior League, as it was now known and stayed there for a decade before climbing back to the Southern League.

Kidderminster finally reached the highest tier of non-league football in 1983 when they gained promotion to what was then known as the Alliance Premier. At this point in time they probably became hated by every AP Leamington fan there is, as Kidder finished second to them but were awarded promotion and then they knicked Leamington's manager Graham Allner who remained at the club for 16 years.

Kidder's first chance of entry to the league came in 1994 when they won the Conference, however they were refused entry due to a wooden stand, even though an FA Cup tie was held against West Ham earlier in the season and the FA had not complained in that instance. Kidder again came close in 1997, but finished second to Macclesfield. After this the club slumped to mid-table for a couple of seasons until ex-Liverpool man Jan Molby took over the managerial hot-seat and won them promotion to the league at the first attempt in 1999-2000. However, Kidder never really made a mark on the league due to never really having enough financial clout and after 5 years they were relegated back to the Conference.

Since then Kidder have become a mid-table Conference team, and the league days seem to be in the distant past.

Apart from winning the Conference in 2000 Kidder's biggest achievement was winning the FA Trophy in 1987 when they beat Burton in a replay at the Hawthornes. They were also the last non-league club to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup, when they beat Birmingham City and Preston North End on the way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hillsfield - The Future

Hillsfield, which at the moment is the home of Rocester Football Club, will soon be developed into an Engineering College for the very locally based JCB. They recently bought the ground and at the moment are charging the club a 'pepper corn rate' to use the ground. However, this also means that the club can be evicted whenever JCB see fit.
The company has promised to build another ground for the club, but where it will be and if it will be adequate for football of this level still remains to be seen.
Rocester moved to Hillsfield in 1987 after gaining promotion from the Staffordshire Senior League (which is the league in which their reserve team now play) to the West Midlands Regional League. The ground was originally called Riversfield, but was later renamed to Hillsfield after the ex-chairman Don Hill, who oversaw Rocester's most successful period.
 The capacity of the ground is allegedly 4,000 and the floodlights and stand originally came from Walsall who sold them after they moved to the Bescot Stadium.

Hillsfield - Home of Rocester (3)

The top picture shows the view of the goal situated infront of the Mill.
 The bottom photo shows the goal which is situated just infront of the River Dove. The river apart from dividing Staffordshire from Derbyshire also gave the ground its original name of Riversfield and has also claimed many a match ball that has been blasted off targer

Hillsfield - Home of Rocester (2)

Views from top to bottom:
 1. View of the clubhouse and mainstand from outside the ground.
2. Signs outside the ground trying to entice people in.
3. Home dugout with the clubhouse in the background.

Hillsfield - Home of Rocester

One of the key features of the ground is the mill from 1870's that is adjacent to it. Here are some views from the walk to the ground from the village


My first game back in Britain wasn't exactly clash of the titans, but Rocester and Oadby served up an entertaining enough game, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
 Dean Smith put the visitors ahead with a cleverly worked move, that they had obviously worked on at the training ground.However, Lee Bagley put the home team level when he was left unmarked on the far post on 15 minutes.
 What followed on for most of the game was a battle in the middle of the field with some breakaways and hard tackling in the centre of the pitch. For the most part Rocester looked like the better team, but they couldn't beat the off-side trap. However, on 81 minutes Rory Maxwell capitalised on a defensive error by Oadby, and it looked like The Poachers would be heading back to Leicestershire without any points.
All Rocester had to do was keep possession and despite attempts to do this they continued to give free kicks away in the corners and fail to look comfortable on the ball when it was in the middle of the pitch. In the end they paid for this lack of calmness, as White scored on 89 minutes for the visitors and in stoppage time they even looked like they could pinch all the points. Nevertheless, the game ended 2-2 and both teams had to be satisfied with a share of the points.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Club Focus - Oadby Town

So the first match I will see back in England will be a ninth level affair between local team Rocester and Oadby Town in the Midlands Football Alliance.
Oadby Town or 'the Poachers', as they are sometimes known started out life in about 1938 as Oadby Imperial. In 1939/40 they won their first competition 'The City Medals'. In 1943 they merged with a local junior team and became briefly Oadby United before changing back to Oadby imperial for 1949/50 season when they entered the Leicestershire Senior League Division 2. They only stayed in this division for a couple of seasons before gaining promotiom to the top tier of the Leicestershire Senior League.In 1951, the same year that they gained promotion Oadby finally settled on the name Oadby Town. However, it wasn't until 1963 that they received their first major piece of silverware when they won the Leicestershire Senior Cup beating Newfoundpool WMC in the final. The following year they retained the cup and sealed a treble by also capturing the League Championship and winning the Coalville Charity Cup. They added to their trophy haul with subsequent league titles in 1968, 69, 73 and 1995 and won the championship three times in a row between 1997 - 1999.
In 1999/2000 Oadby moved to the Midland Football Alliance and went on to win the league in their first season. Last season they finished 17th and will be hoping to improve on that this time out.
Other highlights in this millennium have been an FA Vase Final appearance against Brigg Town in 2003, where they lost 3-1 : 2 Rolleston Charity Cup wins and a Leicestershire Challenge Cup victory.
The club play at Topps Park, which is named after their sponsors, Topps Tiles, it is opposite the Leicester Tigers' training ground and has a capacity of about 2000, although their average crowds are around 100, which is fairly typical of the division.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Parting Shots

Just some photos of Dynamo stadium from my last day in Ukraine and 2 days after the famous victory by Dynamo in Moscow, where they beat Spartak 4-1

Kyiv Swansong

The last game I went to was Arsenal v Zorya Luhansk. The match took place on August 10th. It ended up a 1-1 draw, but was far more entertaining than the game between Arsenal and Kryvbas, despite the final result being the same.
 The game was surprisingly held at Obolon Stadium, and most of the Arsenal fans boycotted the match, not because it was at Obolon, but because of mistreatment by the police at the previous home game.
Vovo Lysenko put Arsenal ahead in this game, just before half time with a headed goal. To be honest he had a great first half and if he and Serhiy Zakarlouka can hit off a better relationship upfront then the future of the team could be secure up front, but Zakarlouka really needs to keep a calmer head when he Lysenko misreads his passes.
 Zorya had a blast from the past in defence with Harrison Omoka playing at centre half. A few years ago there was a rumour that Dynamo had signed an African player who could play up front and in defence called Lucky Harrison. In fact, it was indeed 2 players. Lucky Idahor, who had a couple of good seasons before heading off to Azerbaijan, who now plays as a striker for Tavriya and Harrison Omoka, who played for the reserves before dropping off the map and resurfacing at Zorya.
 He had a terrible first half and Zakarlouka and Lysenko were running rings around him, it was only bad luck and the goalkeeper who stopped Arsenal from scoring more. However, the second half was a different story and Zorya equalised on 56 minutes. Omoka was probably man of the match in the second half, as the last half saw wave after wave of attack by Arsenal, but unfortunately what was to be my last game in Ukraine for a while ended in a 1-1 draw.
Notes on photos (from top to bottom)
1. The teams line up before the match.
2. Arsenal on the attack
3. Midfield battle
4. Another Arsenal attack

He's Here, He's There.....

Well, my computer broke down for the last week in Kyiv. Now I'm in Staffordshire and will probably be going between here and Cambridge for the next few weeks. This means, obviously that the focus of the blog is going to change, and I don't know how much time I will have to do this and even attend football in the next 4 or 5 weeks. Anyway, now it is time to catch up on what has been going on.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gartland Goal

Gartland completes the scoring in the Dynamo v Drogheda game, although Drogheda came close to scoring another 2 goals in the last 2 minutes

Milevskiy Penalty

Milevskiy makes it 2-1 to Dynamo

Robinson Equalises from the Spot

Robinson makes it 1-1 in the Dynamo v Drogheda tie

Aliev 1-0 V Drogheda

Aliev puts Dynamo 1-0 up in the tie against Drogheda

Thursday, August 7, 2008

League Focus - K-League

I have to admit since coming back to Ukraine I've neglected the K-League, which I followed in Korea for 2 years. During the time there I made it to most FC Seoul matches and also managed to visit Seongnam and Daejon for games.

The K-League is one of the most succesful leagues in Asia, relying on a steady flow of Korean players and Europeans. However, unlike some leagues the foreigners that are signed, for example Riccardo, who played for FC Seoul while I was there still seem to have a hunger for the game.

Watching football in Korea is a much different experience to watching it in Europe. It's a bit of a family and popcorn event, although it's pretty easy to get beer in the stadium. There are also a lot of freebies on offer. For example, they often give ballooons and sweets to kids and programmes are free. I also have a badge to commemorate the game between FC Seoul and Suwon on 21 March 2007. Not a bad souvenir as FC Seoul beat their hated and more successful neighbours 4-1 on this occassion.

An organised league is relatively new to Korea. The korean Super League was founded in 1983 with just 5 teams; Hallelujah (who as you would expect are a very devout bunch and now ply their trade in the National League, where they have a group prayer on the pitch before the match), Daewoo, POSCO, Yukong Elephants and Kookmin Bank. In the inaugral year Hallekujah must have found some divine intervention as they managed to win the League.

In 1994 the K-League was reformed with 14 teams, as it remains today. Kookmin Bank and Hallelujah soon dropped out, although the latter have come close on a few occassions to making a return to the K-League. Most of the teams are owned by big corporations, or Chaebols, as they are known in that part of the World. This is evident in the names of such teams as Busan I'Park, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Ulsan Hyundai. Other clubs, such as Incheon United, who are the best supported team in the League, are owned by the local council and Korea's most succesful team,Seongnam Ilwah are owned by the Reverend Moon of Moonies fame. In fact their ground, which to be honest has a fantastic atmosphere, also has a massive church just behind it. They also host the bi-annual Peace Cup, which brings together clubs from Europe, Asia and South America. The final and bigger games though tend to be played at the World Cup Stadium in Seoul, the home of FC Seoul. For example Reading played there last year and the final between Lyon and Bolton was also held at Seoul's home ground.

FC Seoul were the team that I followed when I was in Seoul. In fact if you look at my profile picture you can see me in the away shirt on the left. This photo was taken at the League Cup Final, which Seoul lost to Ulsan in, unfortunately. FC Seoul, however have caused their fair share of controversy in the past. They are owned by one of the Chaebols, LG. In 2003 they broke up the LG Cheetahs who played in a satellite town of Seoul and shipped them off to the World Cup Stadium, which didn't have a team and FC Seoul were born. Jeju United were formed in a similar incident of franchise football in 2005.

One thing to remember is that supporting a club in Korea is a very different experience to following a club in Europe. There is all the chanting and choreography, you'd expect but on a positive note it lacks any nastiness, maybe because there are alot more women spectators (although when FC Seoul play Incheon United there is often a good old fashioned punch up). On the negative side it sometimes lacks the passion you feel in Europe. Obviously, there is an element of rent-a fan as the big companies sometimes tell their employees to go and support the team. For example Suwon are owned by Samsung and most people in the town are employed by them. Reading and Bolton also had 'fans' in the Peace Cup who were obviously just people who had been provided with drums and bits of rubber to bang together in the clubs' colours in order to create an atmosphere. Another problem is obviously caused by the franchise way of running things and the fact that the clubs have very little history. The atmosphere can also sometimes be stilted in that clubs like FC Seoul, whose attendance can be anything from 4,000 to 65,000 depending on what day it is and what the weather is like play in huge stadiums that were built for the 2002 World Cup. There is also a play off system with the top 6 teams going into the play offs when the season finishes in November, which can't be good for the game.

That said the fans are friendly and several clubs regularly get in excess of 20,000 and it's easy to drink beer and even soju in the ground.

At the time of writing the top 3 has a familiar feel with Suwon leading Seongnam and Seoul at the top.

Below the K-League is the National League, which the top team are allowed to gain promotion from if they have the resources and willingness to go up.

Note on the pictures from top to bottom:
1. K-League emblem
2. Picture I took at Fc Seoul V Suwon on 8th April 2007. during this match there were 68,000 spectators, a record for the K-League
3. Suwon bage
4. Seongnam badge
5. FC Seoul badge

Making a Meal of it

Before last night's game with Drogheda United, Dynamo were already confident that they would be in the next round and playing against Spartak. They were 2-1 up from the tie in Ireland and had no fear of the Irish team. Last night, however showed that they had everything to fear and the style of play that they have recently adopted and I have criticised before can leave them vulnerable as they are pretty easy to hit on the break. They also have too many long range shots, which occassionaly lead to goals, but more concentration might see them putting games beyond doubt instead of keeping their opponents in it up until the last minute.

Last night Dynamo started off brightly with Oleksandr Aliev putting them ahead with a goal from outside the area (where else?) and a few minutes later he also hit the post. Bangoura also had a few good chances, but he still doesn't seem to have found his scoring boots this season. Nevertheless, Dynamo's lead was cancelled out on 42 minutes when El Kaddouri fouled Adam Hughes in the box and Shane Robinson went on to convert the penalty. So at half time it was 1-1 and the natives were restless.

The second half saw Dynamo dominating for long periods, with their best chance coming when a Ghioane shot from a free kick hit the crossbar. On the 73rd minute Dynamo finally got the breakthrough they were looking for when Betao was fouled and Artem Milevskiy converted from the spot.

Cue Mexican waves and screaming kids ( including my 2), but that wasn't the end of it. The 77th minute introduction of Ilyane Thiam by the boys from Louth seemed inspired. He caused an aerial threat to Diakhate which instantly put him under pressure, although he had been solid throughout the game and suddenly Drogheda started to believe again. They really started to believe in the 88th minute when Lutsenko, who was standing in for Shovkovskiy in the Dynamo net let Graham Gartland score with a soft header from a free kick.

The last 2 minutes were frantic, as Drogheda piled on the pressure to get the goal that would send them to Moscow at Dynamo's expense and both Adam Hughes and Shane Robinson came very close to providing the winner, but it wasn't to be. The final score was 2-2 and Dynamo progress. A great game with a great atmosphere.

Notes on photos from top to bottom:
Drogheda fans keeping the dream alive.
Dynamo fans with a play on words, the banner reads 'Na Myaskvu', which means to Moscow, but is spelled wrongly to include the word meat - the derogatory nickname of Spartak.
Dynamo clear a drogheda attack.
Ewing, the Drogheda goalkeeper clears a Dynamo attack.
The free kick which led to Drogheda's 88th minute goal

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Club Focus - Filmleiflag Hafnafjordur

As tonight I'll be going to Dynamo v Drogheda and Sunday sees Arsenal take on Zorya, I thought I'd take a look at Villa's opponents in the UEFA Cup.

Hafnafjordur were formed in 1929, and despite being most famous for their football club, they also compete in other sports including track and field. As a football club they only really came to prominence this century with 3 back to back championships between 2004 and 2006. Last year they narrowly missed out to Valur of Reykjavik, and this season they are again top of the league. Their most famous victory in Europe came when they knocked Dunfermiline out of the 2nd qualifying round of the UEFA Cup in 2004-5 ( I will be hoping that they don't pull a shock off in this year's tournament at the same point)

In recent years they have been expanding their ground's capacity from 2,200 to 6,000, which will make it the second biggest stadium in Iceland after Laugardalsvollors. Whether this is really necessary remains to be seen. Last season Hafnafjordur were the second best supported team in Iceland after KR Reykjavik, but their average was only 1,609 and which represented a drop of 30 percent on the previous Championship season. That said, I don't think it would be wise to describe any fans in Iceland as fair weather supporters!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Death Match, Soviet Propaganda and the Luftwaffe

The anniverssary of the so called 'Death Match' occurs this week, as it took place on August 9th 1942. The match took place between FC Start from Kyiv and a Luftwaffe team called Flakelf, the Ukrainians winning the game 5-3.

FC Start was a team formed in the war by a few professionial footballers who had stayed behind to fight in Kyiv. The central point was a bakery that some of them worked at. The backbone of the team was made up of Dynamo players, but there were also players from Lokomotiv Kyiv represented too. It is a common misconception that it was Dynamo Kyiv who played in the death match, as despite the fact that most of the team were from Dynamo before the war this team was called FC Start. They wore red shirts to stir up emotions and show that they were representing the USSR.

FC Start came to prominence in the Kyiv League that took place during the early days of the war and their form against both other Ukrainian clubs and army garrisons led to them being challenged by the Luftwaffe's invincible (or so they though) Flakelf team. It has to be remembered that the Flakelf players were well fed and trained compared with their Ukrainian counterparts who were virtually starving. However, the Germans didn't get things their own way, as FC Start won the game 5-0.

The Luftwaffe were having none of this though and hastily re-arranged the match for August 9th 1942. This time they flew in some other professionals who were fighting in different branches of the Armed Forces and insisted on their own referee, who it seems was unable to spot fouls on the Start players. However, Flakelf were again humiliated this time 5-3, with their humiliation being compounded when the right back Oleksiy Klymenko rounded the Flakelf keeper, stopped the ball on the line and then hoofed it back up field. The cheeky sod!

Now, if I saw this happening to my team and I had a gun I would probably have wanted to shoot him too. The story that was propogated by Stalin after the war was that this is what exactly happened. The players were rounded-up and shot immediately. Other stories said that the Germans were even having pot-shots at the players during the game. These stories became so entangled in the mythology of the Soviet Union that many people, including some of my friends believe that the match never happened at all.

What actually happened was that Mykola Korotkykh, one of the main players for FC Start was arrested and tortured for 20 days before being killed. The other players were also rounded up in the next few months and sent to Babi Yar concentration camp. It has been suggested that officials from a Lviv team who were Nazi sympathisers, and who were jealous of the skills and celebrity of the Start players actually pleaded with the Germans to have them arrested.

What is clear is that the players, who were relatively fit survived for 6 months in the concentration camp and that it was only when the camp leader decided to have every third prisoner shot in repraisals for damaged machinery on the camp that they died. This was when heroes Klymenko, Kuzmenko and Trusevich were shot. It must also be pointed out that at this time the Soviet Army were pushing the Germans back and were soon to arrive in Kyiv and it was quite handy to have the players shot rather than to have them as living heroes that the Soviet propoganda machine could manipulate. One of the other players, Komorov disappeared and it's believed that he had 'shopped' some of his team mates.

The game took place at Zenit Stadium, which has since been renamed Start Stadium. Today it is used for kids matches, informal tournaments and general kick abouts.

Top: Entrance to Start Stadium
Middle: Start Stadium today
Bottom: Monument to the heroes of the game

Everybody Does It - Loba Photos

I won't eulogise too much about Valeriy Lobanovskiy, the ex-Dynamo coach as I already have done so here:

I had always been too self conscious or unable due to the huge number of people who have photos taken with the statue of Lobanovskiy outside Dynamo on match days, and I also felt smug knowing that the people who usually do it are football tourists rather than people who never miss a game at the stadium. Anyway, that's enough of my own character flaws. Yesterday I went to the stadium to pick up tickets for the Dynamo v Drogheda game on Wednesday and decided to take a couple of photos, so here they are.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jackson Coelho Gets the Winner

Fantastic Jackson gets all 3 points for Metalist with this 50th minute strike.

Ninkovic Equalises

Ninkovic scores in first half stoppage time to make it 1-1

Valyaev Opens the Scoring

The Fans

Top: Dynamo fans respond to the taunts of 'Pervaya Stolitsa' (The First Capital), Kharkiv was the capital of Independent Ukraine before Kyiv- with some woderful choreography.
Bottom: Metalist fans continue to go mental, as they did for about 2 hours


Metalist fans celebrate going 1-0 up and their victory at the end of the match

Handbags at 10 paces

Here's a picture of the 20 man brawl, but it really was just a bit of pushing and shoving, the fans were going mad, but nobody was even booked during this incedent.

A Lesson in Football

I spent Saturday afternoon watching FK Kharkiv take on Arsenal in Sumy on TV. It was a pedestrian 1-1 draw and the unloved FK Kharkiv have proved that they are unwanted in their own town, as they are having to play in the impressive Sumy stadium after Spartak Sumy went bankrupt when Luk Oil pulled out of their sponsorship. The Arsenal lads had gone to the game, and when I found out I was texting them saying I wish I had gone with them. On second thoughts I am glad I didn't.

Instead in the evening I went to the game between the two bigger Kyiv and Kharkiv teams, Dynamo and Metalist. This was one of the best games I have seen in a long while. Both teams were up for it and were roared on by passionate fans. Sure, there were the usual Dynamo idiots who spent most of the game taking photos of each other in their new scarves and one woman who had wandered in with her boyfriend 40 minutes late asked if Dynamo were wearing yellow, who still celebrated the Blue and Whites goal 2 minutes later like she'd just won the Champions League, but in general the atmosphere was electric.

The game had everything, charged up fans, rattled woodwork, turned down penalty decisions, a 20 man brawl and 3 wonderful goals. What really topped it off was that in the last 10 minutes when Dynamo were throwing everything forward the Metalist defence managed to hold out for a win.

As I suspected a couple of week's ago the Dynamo forwards would be caught out against a better defence. Shatkikh looked out of his depth, Milevskiy couldn't keep up and Bangoura when he came on still looked out of sorts.

The opening goal came on 38 minutes when Serhiy Valyaev managed to jink around the Dynamo defence and slot the ball in for a 1-0 lead to Metalist. The lead was short-lived though, as on the stroke of half time Milos Ninkovic, put one of his trademark blasters, that Aliev tries to copy so much into the back of the net.

Both teams played a hard pressing brand of football, but Metalist's considerably pacier defence were able to do more on the counter attack, which was proved on 5o minutes when Fantastic Jackson, as he's known in the First Capital, scored another spectacular goal to put Metalist in the lead.

The rest of the game was played out at break neck speed with Dynamo hitting the post and not getting the equaliser due to some stout defending, inepept shooting and stern refereeing. Despite the constant pressure Metalist looked like they could extend their lead on the counter attack, especially when the ball was played out to Jackson. However, the game finished 2-1 and Metalist went back to Kharkiv with 3 points.

Maybe, just maybe the winds are changing in Ukrainian football. Shakhtar have had a couple of bad results and in this game Metalist gave Dynamo a lesson in how to play the 'Dynamo style'. For a few years Dnipro have been the team that everybody expected to break the dominance of the top 2, but after a 3rd place finish last season Metalist could perhaps at least go one better. At the moment Kharkiv is the biggest city in Europe never to have had a team taking part in the ChampionsLeague/ European Cup. On this performance I wouldn't bet against them not taking part in the Continent's elite competition next year.
The top photo shows a Dynamo attack
Bottom: Metalist fire just wide of the post

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Club Focus - Spartak Moscow

If Dynamo beat Drogheda in the Champions League their next opponents will be Spartak Moscow. In the days of the Soviet Union this was the biggest match of any season. Dynamo and Spartak were the 2 most successful teams and the 2 best supported clubs. Unfortunately I won't be in Kyiv to see it, but it should be a very interesting match indeed.

Spartak were founded as a meat processors' team in 1922 by Nikolai Starostin. They quickly became known as 'The People's Team' in Russia, as they weren't affiliated to a branch of the party and were seen as an alternative to CSKA (army), Dinamo (Police) and Lokomotiv (Railways). Starostin was always keen to promote the image of the team as the downtrodden and cheated, although some of his statements about match fixing against Spartak seem to be a bit exaggerated given the success the club had. He also claimed that the name Spartak came fro his reading of the book by Raffaello Giovagnoli, and he was inspired by the story of the slave who stood up against the Romans. This also seems doubtful though as there were already several clubs in the Soviet Union called Spartak.

Starostin did manage to sufficiently anger the authorities and Beria, Stalin's second in charge especially, when in 1939 they beat his beloved Dynamo Tblisi in a cup semi-final. Spartak went on to win the cup against CSKA Moscow, but were ordered to replay the semi-final and won it again. 3 years later Starostin and his brothers were sent to the gulag allegedly on the orders of Beria for attempting to kill Stalin, which also seemed ridiculous. Starostin spent 10 years in the gulag before returning to Spartak.

Starostin himself was not whiter than white, as on one occassion in the 60's Spartak needed to beat CSKA Moscow to win the title; they did, and not long after most of the CSKA team moved into new flats provided by old Nik's mates.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union Spartak were the main men in Russia and won the Championship 9 times in a row. I lived in Moscow at this time, and Spartak were the only Moscow team able to draw respectable crowds in the capital and had many great players including Andrei Tikhonov and Dmitry Alenichev. The man behind the success was Oleg Romantsev, who during the period somehow managed to balance being the President of Spartak the head coach and the coach of the national team, as well as a chronic alcohol problem. His first priority was to develop talented Russian players and then sell them to the West for vast profits. For most of the time the policy was successful, although in 1995-96 the obsession with this policy may have robbed Spartak of European glory. Spartak had won all of their games in the group stage, but over the winter break they sold most of their best players and then lost in a very tame game against Lyon. Another worrying aspect of the Romantsev era was the extent of doping going on at the club. Several players have since come out and complained that they were unknowingly doped by the clubs doctors with a drug that was used in the Soviet war against Afghanistan to keep soldiers alert. Egor Titov, the very symbol of Spartak was made the scapegoat for all this and served a one year ban.

Things started to go bad for Spartak in 2000 when Romantsev sold his shares in the club to the oil magnate and football novice, Andrei Chervichenko. Spartak have since came back and they remain the most popular team in Russia, but clubs like CSKA, who were the first Russian club to win a European tournament (UEFA Cup 2005), Zenit who won the UEFA Cup this year and Lokomotiv have all found their sugar daddies and have gained fans as well as trophies.

One thing remains though Spartak v Dynamo Kyiv is a mouth watering fixture that will have 2 nations glued to their TV sets.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Club Focus - Luch Energia Vladivostok

One of my unfullfilled ambitions, which will probably remain unfullfilled is to see Luch Vladivostok play a home game at their Dynamo Stadium. Another is to see them get into the Champions League. Can you imagine how pissed off clubs like Manchester United would be if they had to travel basically as far as Japan for a midweek game, and without the massive pay-day of a friendly in Japan?

Luch's location even causes problems in the Russian League. For example in 2006 3 Zenit fans drove to the match from St. Petersburg in a clapped out Honda. Unfortunately, the car broke down in Vladivostok and the lads had to get a Trans-Siberian train back to Leningrad. An especially arduous journey that takes several days and travels the distance of 15000 KM very slowly. At least Zenit showed them their appreciation and gave them a brand new car when they eventually got home.

Professional football arrived in Vladivostok in 1947 when it was decided that a team from Siberia and one from the Far East would get a new team in the regional B division of the Soviet League. At the time the team was called Dinamo, hence the name of their stadium and their first game was in front of a capacity crowd of 10,000. They played against Khabarosk and unfortunately lost 1-0.

Luch were born in 1958 and played in the B division of the Far East regional league and stayed there until they were promoted in 1965 to the A-Class. When the league was reorganised in 1972 Luch found themselves in the 2nd Division ( Eastern Region) and they stayed there until 1991.

In 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union Luch were entered into the First Division of the Russian League. In that season they gained promotion to the top flight, but only hanged around for a season before getting relegated again. From 1998 - 2003 Luch were in the Second Division and then 2003-2005 they were in the first. In 2005 they were again promoted to the Top Flight and have been there since. At the moment my dreams of seeing them get into the champions League seem pretty distant, as they are just above the drop zone, but there is still a long way to go. Let's hope they can at least stay up.
Come on You SunStrikers!