Sunday, March 16, 2014

Amkar 0-0 Lokomotiv: Two of Russia's best defences draw predictably

Amkar and Lokomotiv played out something of a predictable draw given the high quality of their defences, yet Amkar should still be happy with holding the league leaders to a draw.

football formationsBoth managers made somewhat baffling selections in this match. Amkar's manager, Stanislav Cherchesov, continued his bizarre selection of Alexei Nikitin over Thomas Phibel in the centre of defence, and I really can't justify him playing Jakub Wawrzyniak over Dzhamaldin Kodzhaniyazov at left back either. Meanwhile, Lokomotiv's Mbark Boussoufa was dropped in favour of Magomed Ozdoev, presumably because the latter scored a decent goal against Krylia last weekend.

As was expected due to the excellent defences of these two teams, the match started slowly with neither side giving up any major chances. It was Amkar who had the first opportunity of the night as Wawrzyniak cleverly flicked on a Georgi Peev free kick and hit the post, but it wasn't long before Dame N'Doye went up the other end, hitting a shot on goal that was deflected off Dmitri Belorukov and saved easily by Sergei Narubin. The half continued without many chances until the 36th minute, when N'Doye was dragged down in the box by Nikitin, yet inexplicably no penalty was given. Amkar did end up having the final chance of the half however, as Maksim Kannunikov gathered up a long ball in the box, but was put off by pressure from Jan Durica and skied his shot in the final seconds of stoppage time.

The interval saw no changes for either side, but Amkar certainly came out of the gates with a renewed vigour and looked more likely to score. In the opening minutes of the second period, Aleksandr Kolomeitsev put a shot low across the face of goal, before N'Doye also came close just moments later. However, Amkar soon slowed down and the match returned to one of few chances, primarily given away by set pieces. Substitute Boussoufa came close with one such set piece, a free kick, while Lass Diarra flicked on a corner late on, but was unable to get it on target. Both managers attempted to change the game with substitutes as Loko brought on Roman Pavlyuchenko and Sergei Tkachev late on, while Amkar introduced Martin Jakubko and Patrick Twumasi, yet none of the four were able to make an impact on the match. Lokomotiv had one final chance late on when Amkar captain Belorukov gave away a free kick on the edge of the box in the final seconds of stoppage time, but the resulting effort from Aleksandr Samedov was disappointing and the match finished at 0-0.

Man of the Match: Vedran Corluka
As per usual, Corluka was on fine form and kept the opposing forwards quiet. His distribution from the back was excellent and he was absolutely dominant in the air. Surprisingly, he also had a few good runs forward, including one that won a free kick that Boussoufa came close from.

Honourable Mentions:
Roman Shishkin - Despite getting quite fired up over the course of the match, Shishkin was fantastic defensively and very good going forward. A solid match from the Loko captain.
Dmitri Belorukov - The Amkar captain was fantastic in defence as always and, despite his late foul, was well composed all match.
Janusz Gol - Solid in defence all match and controlled the little possession that Amkar had. The Polish midfielder's form has been good since the winter break after a disappointing first half of the season.

- I'm impressed with Amkar's ability to keep this match level, but Lokomotiv's attack was completely toothless today. Dame N'Doye is far too inconsistent to be a top class forward (yes, he's even worse than Roman Pavlyuchenko in that respect).
- I really can't justify the selection of Alexei Nikitin over Thomas Phibel. Nikitin should've been sent off for that challenge on N'Doye and constantly failed to deal with crosses.
- Another selection that I'm not sure was right was Leonid Kuchuk selecting Magomed Ozdoev over Mbark Boussoufa. Ozdoev may have scored last week, but he's a selection for matches in which Loko is going to face a possession battle and want to keep the ball away from their opponents. For matches such as this, in which Amkar were never going to try and control possession, Boussoufa's a much better choice thanks to his great final ball and creativity.
- Maksim Kannunikov did seem rather isolated up front, and this wasn't really helped by his reluctance to drop deep. Peev, Ogude and Kolomeitsev usually have better service, but they were all kept relatively quiet by Loko's back line.

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