Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Stick As Czech Promises Unity

DURING some of last season training sessions at Sydney FC you would have seen curious fans chased away with a stick and players reprimanded for laughing by the old coach.
With the two new Queensland teams, Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury hogging the headlines at their first training session, Sydney FC's first training session featured a private group session where the coach revealed his philosophy to the players and a strong promise that the club will improve on last season's performance.

During the first training session there were no sightings of sticks or attempts to stop the players from laughing.

The perception of the new coach is that he will let his results on the field do the talking.
Somehow I doubt champions Melbourne Victory and unofficial favourites Gold Coast United will fear the mantra of new Sydney FC coach Viteslav Lavicka:

"Little by little, step by step" seems to be the Czech championships winning favourite line to use so far, when dealing with the media..

It's a rather large step away from former coach Branko Culina who said that Sydney FC where the "Manchester United of the A-League".

Rather than talking up the prospects of being champions or going through undefeated like the Gold Coast chairman Clive Palmer has gone on record as saying.

One suspects that this season Sydney FC will focus on training hard, producing quality performances on the field and getting back that team spirit and unity that was missing in previous seasons.

"Little by little, step by step, we need to improve on last year and with unity I am sure that we will realise our ambition," Lavicka said.

"I spoke to the players before training today and told them what my philosophy is."

There'll be no rest for the Sydney FC squad, the Sky blues will have to get used to an Eastern European training regime and will have eight training sessions in the first week back on the field.

With two players left to fill the playing roster, the recent talk about Brazilians Denilson and Roque Junior recently revealed has cooled and Lavicka perhaps intends to search more locally for these players.

"We have time to recognise these players," Lavicka said after his first training session today. "We'll see, maybe we'll have a look at some good players [from the NSW league] and we can invite them for a test and maybe for the contract signing."

Last season Sydney FC struggled to find openings for their strikers John Aloisi, Mark Bridge and Alex Brosque. With the arrival of Karol Kisel from Sparta Prague and seeing him line up in an attacking midfield role during his first training session, Sydney's strikers will hope they receive better service this season.

"I'm really glad to come here, and I'm proud to be a part of Sydney so I enjoy it," said the 32-year old midfielder at the end of the session.

"I know Sydney FC is one of the best clubs. They had not so good season last year so we're going to change it this year.

Kisel continued: "I've come here to score goals and win another league title (to go with the Czech championship he won with Sparta Prague in 2007).

"I'm the club's foreigner certainly (so I can expect pressure) but it is always like this, everywhere in Europe and also in Australia."

Kisel who was first rumoured to be a left sided defender sees his role more in midfield:
"It does not matter where I play. I prefer to play as a central or right-sided midfielder but it is up to the coach and depending on the tactics he chooses."

So with over three months to go before the season proper begins the inaugural champions of the A-League maybe be taking a softly softly approach, however the new owners will hope a good run of early results will see the fans flooding back, hopefully this time they won't be beaten away with a stick

Australia's Own Premier League Waiting To Be Discovered

Buried deep in Australian cable television land lays a show dedicated to local football; the show features highlights from all the state leagues in Australia.

It has Football Federation Victoria, Football NSW, Football QLD, Football Federation Tasmania and Football West.

The football show is buried between the “Love Bunker” (the program guarantees to lift the lid on what twenty somethings get up to behind closed doors) and Dark Carnival (featuring the wonder of amateur short films).

The show in question is called The Australian Premier League Football Show and it’s on the AURORA channel on Foxtel

The times you can catch it is Friday nights at 7:30pm and repeated on Monday night’s at 10:30pm.

That’s right, potentially Australia’s new Harry Kewell or Tim Cahill is strutting his stuff for all to see in prime time community cable TV.

The show is hosted by the charismatic Ross Alatsas; I wouldn’t say he has Nicholas Cage hair but he is getting close - think around the time of the Cohen brother’s film, Raising Arizona.

Last season in the A-League there were many players who were recruited from the various Premier League competitions around Australia, here are just some:Shannon Cole (Sydney FC), Mark Pelligrino (Perth Glory), Pedj Bojic (Central Coast), Many Muscat (Phoenix).

So why is this show so hidden?

Even folks with cable have no idea this show exists, surely it deserves to be on a sports channel somewhere.

Here is an update of what is happening around the Premier League’s across Australia...

Football NSW

There are 12 teams competing in the 2009 club championship and there have been eight rounds completed so far.

Former NSL (National Soccer League) representatives Sydney United lead the table on 20 points with six wins and two losses so far.

Not far behind with a gap of five points lay the Sutherland Sharks and Manly United on 15 points each.

Sydney Olympic has had a season of controversy after Aytec Genc quit his post as head coach and was replaced by ex Newcastle Jets coach Nick Theodorakopoulos.

Last week the blues beat the Bankstown Lions for their second win in a row under new coach Theodorakopoulos; they climb into the top five with 12 points.

Top goal scorers so far are:

Mathew Mayora, (Sydney Olympic) 7 Goals.
Luka Glavas, (Sydney United) 6 Goals.

Football Federation Victoria (FFV)

With former NSL teams like South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights competing and players like Melbourne Victory’s Rodrigo Vargas and Adelaide United’s Sasa Ognenovski joining the A-league after strong performances in that league, there is strong argument to suggest it is the strongest state league in the country.

The 2009 season saw the Whittlesea Zebras FC retain its position in the competition as the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) will no longer be competing in the Foxtel Cup as of season 2009.

The decision to leave the competition was due to the AIS offering scholarships to younger players subsequently making it inappropriate for the AIS team to compete in a Premier League competition.

After eight rounds Dandenong Thunder leads the table on 22 points while South Melbourne and Heidelberg United is equal second on 16 points.

Top goal scorers so far are:
Osagie Ederaro, (Heidelberg Utd) 6 Goals
Goran Zoric (South Melbourne) 6 Goals

Queensland State League (QSL)

Well with names like the Capricorn Cougars and Whitsunday Mariners and Robbie Fowler joining the North Queensland Fury, Nth Queensland is more than a tropical escape route for fed up southerners; it is fast becoming a haven for young footballers and old ones as well.

The top two took on each other last week as Olympic FC met cross town rivals and ex NSL side Brisbane strikers on ANZAC day.

Olympic FC won the clash 3-2, a send off, a penalty and some ferocious tackling saw Olympic go to the top of the table, with 19points, four points clear of the Brisbane Strikers who are on 15 and six clear of third placed Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) on 13 points.

Top goal scorers so far are:

Gareth Musson, (Brisbane Strikers FC) 6 goals.
Joshua Searle, (North Queensland Razorbacks) 6 goals.
Russell Woodruffe, (Redlands City Devils) 6 goals.

Football West (WA League)

Three rounds have been played so far and the match of the round in round three saw Floreat Athena beat the reigning premiers Sorrento 2-1.

The ladder sees two undefeated teams sharing the lead with Perth SC and Floreat Athena with nine points each.

Todd Howarth for Perth SC is the leading scorer so far with four goals.

Football Federation Tasmania (FFT)

With the A-league looking to expand and talk about the Tasmanian bid circling in the media recently it’s particularly interesting to see the quality of football that is played in Tasmania.

The problem that the Apple isle has in getting a team in the A-league is the north and south divide with a North and South league separating the island.

The Tasmanian Northern League sees the Northern Ranger on top of the ladder with five games played and 13 points followed in second by Somerset on nine points.The top goal scorer for the Northern League is Paul Bremener of the Northern Rangers with eight goals.

The Tasmanian Southern League sees South Hobart and Tilford Zebra’s share the lead with both teams on 16 points after seven games played.

The top goal scorers for the Southern League are Luke Cripps (Clarence Utd), Greg Freeman (Kingborough) and Dwayne Walsh (Tilford Zeberas) all on seven goals.

So with the A-league having a very very long off season if you still want a hit of local football action, the various State Premier League’s can provide you with a football fix during the cold wintery off season, even if you have to search for it.

Con Stamocostas,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Russian Premier League: Matchday 6 Round-Up

There were some major upsets during matchday six of the Russian Premier League.Spartak Moscow seem rejuvenated after a change of coach and beat last year’s champions Rubin Kazan away from home.

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) went back to the top of the ladder after beating Dinamo Moscow on the road.FC Moscow won their fourth game in a row - and fellow Muscovites, CSKA, were upset at home by Rostov.

Saturday, April 25

Rubin Kazan 0-2 Spartak Moscow

Top-of-the-table Rubin Kazan kicked off this week’s round of RPL matches with a home game against Spartak Moscow.

Kazan had been playing well of late, with no losses and only one goal conceded in five games. Spartak were regarded as underdogs in the clash against current leaders Rubin.

Spartak Moscow, the most popular club in Russia, have gone through changes at the top; recently sacking coach Michael Laudrup.Fifteen-thousand at the Tsentralnyi Stadium saw a first half that was an even affair but the team from Moscow took control of the game in the second.

It was Austrian international defender Martin Stranzl who climbed highest in the 49th minute to meet a floated corner by Brazilian striker Alex.Spartak doubled their lead in the 61st minute, with Brazilian striker Welliton getting his third goal of the season.

The 22 year-old ran through on goal to meet a lovely chip by Alex that split the Rubin defence. The striker then beautifully lobbed the Kazan keeper to make the score 2-0.Welliton could have netted another but missed a great opportunity a few minutes before the final whistle.

Valery Karpin, who is Spartak’s general director, takes charge of the team until a permanent replacement can be found. Alongside former Russian national coach Oleg Romantsev who has returned to the club as a consultant coach, he has lead the Spartans to two consecutive victories.

Form Guide

Rubin Kazan: WDDWWL
Points: 11 Position: 3

Spartak Moscow: DLWLWW
Points: 10 Position: 6

Zenit St. Petersburg 4-2 FC Khimki

The Petrovski Stadium in St. Petersburg was filled with 16,000 supporters and the Zenit fans would have been happy at the 4-2 scoreline against Khmiki.

Russian national team midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov got the scoreboard ticking in the eighth minute.Midfielder Igor Semshov scored his first goal of the season, netting in the 27th minute to make the score line 2-0 for Zenit.

However, just before half-time, IIya Maksimov pulled one back for Khmki, scoring with a free kick.Seventeen minutes into the second half Fatih Tekke beat two Khimki defenders on his way to bringing back the two-goal lead for the hosts.

But Khimki didn't give up and in the 82nd minute, substitute Aleksander Antipenko made it 3-2 with another free kick.

And two minutes from time Zyryanov put substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak clear on goal. He finally put Khimki away, the final score 4-2 in favour of Zenit.

Form Guide

Zenit St Petersburg: DWWDDW
Points: 12 Position: 2

Points: 1 Position:16

Dinamo Moscow 0-1 Kryliya Sovetov (Samara)

The majority of the 8,923 fans at the Dinamo Stadium in Moscow would have gone home disappointed as Czech striker Jan Koller put Krylia Sovetov (Samara) back to the top of the RPL with this away victory.

Dinamo slide down to seventh place after this loss.

Form Guide

Dinamo Moscow: WWLWLL
Points: 9 Position: 7

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara): WWLWDW
Points: 13 Position: 1

Terek Grozny 1-1 Saturn Moscow
The Chechens and Aliens fought out a 1-1 draw at the Tsentralnyi Stadium, in front of 9,000 fans.
Levan Gvazava put Terek in front in the 26th minute while 33-year-old defender, Vadim Evseev put the Aliens back on even terms right after half-time and that is how it stayed till the end.

Form Guide

Terek Grozny: WDWLLD
Points: 8 Position: 9

The Aliens: LLWDLD
Points: 5 Position: 15

Sunday, April 26

FC Moscow 2-1 Tom' Tomsk

FC Moscow defeated Tom Tomsk for the second time in a week, after knocking the Siberian team out of the Russian Cup on Wednesday.

The beginning of the game saw away side Tom Tomsk open the scoring though, at the Eduard Streltsov Stadium.

There were 36 minutes gone when a throw in by defender Andrey Ivanov turned into an assist and Belarus striker Sergey Kornilenko made it 1-0.

Last week FC Moscow had Argentinian Hector Bracamonte to thank for securing a 1-0 win over the Aliens of Saturn Moscow.

This week “Braca” scored the equaliser; the hosts scored a minute from the half-time whistle, from a corner. Tom goalkeeper Estonian Sergey Pareyko did well to block two shots but couldn’t stop the Argentinian from equalising with the third one.

Then in the 75th minute Slovakian international striker Martin Yakubko capitalised on a defender's mistake and the 29-year-old sealed the three points for FC Moscow.FC Moscow sits in fourth position only two points away from leaders Krylya Sovetov.

Form Guide

Points: 11 Position: 6

Tom Tomsk: LWLDWL
Points: 4 Position: 10

CSKA Moscow 1-2 FC Rostov-Na-Donu

The Army Men of CSKA Moscow were upset 2-1 by Rostov in front of 9,000 fans at the Luzhniki Stadium.CSKA scored first through Eugeni Aldonin, whose shot took a deflection and flew past the keeper, 18 minutes in.

Three minutes before half-time, CSKA’s keeper Igor Akinfeev faced a similar scenario at the other end after his own defender changed the direction of Rostov’s striker, Igor Lebedenko's drive, to give Rostov a share of the spoils.

Rostov then took the lead three minutes into the second half; CSKA found themselves under real pressure in the area as Rostov attacker Dmitry Akimov's header hit the crossbar and DPR Korea striker Hong Yong Cho was able to get the rebound in at the third attempt. CSKA move down to fifth and Rostov with this upset win go up to eight.

Form Guide

Points: 10 Position: 5

FC Rostov-Na -Donu: DDWLDW
Points: 9 Position: 10

Spartak Nalchik 4-1 Amkar Perm'

The Spartak Stadium was filled with 9,000 souls as Spartak Nalchik crushed Amkar 4-1; it was the first win of the season for Caucasian team.Belarus striker, Artem Kontsevoy, got the first goal of the game in the 30th minute.

It was followed up by goals through defender, Vladimir Kisenkov, in the 39th and Gogita Gogua in the 48th.

Islam Goshokov finished the scoring for Spartak Nalchick in the 65th minute and substitute striker Predrag Sikimic got a consolation goal in the 82nd minute for Amakar.

Form Guide

Spartak Nalchik: LDLDLW
Points: 5 Position: 14

Amkar Perm: DLDDW
Points: 6 Position: 12

Kuban Krasnodar 1-0 Lokomotiv Moscow

The canaries of Kuban beat the railway men of Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0 at the Kuban Stadium, sending the majority of the 17,000 crowd home happy.It was Ghanaian national team midfielder, Haminu Dramani, who won the game; the 23-year-old scored in the final minute against the side that owns his signature.

Form Guide

FC Kuban Krasnodar: LWLDLW
Points: 7 Position: 11

Lokomotiv Moscow: DDWLDL
Points: 6 Position: 13

Con Stamocostas,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Russian Premier League: Matchday 6 Preview

Matchday 6 (all kick off times GMT)

Saturday April 25
11:00 Rubin Kazan - Spartak Moscow
13:30 Zenit St Petersburg - FC Khimki
13:30 Dinamo Moscow - Kryliya Sovetov (Samara)
16:00 Terek Grozny - Saturn Moscow

Sunday April 26
11:00 FC Moscow - Tom' Tomsk
13:30 CSKA Moscow - Rostov-Na-Donu
15:00 Spartak Nalchik - Amkar Perm'
16:00 Kuban Krasnodar - Lokomotiv Moscow


Rubin Kazan - Spartak Moscow
Top of the table Rubin Kazan kick off this week’s round of RPL matches with a home game against a rejuvenated Spartak Moscow.

The current champions of the RPL enjoyed a fine 3-0 win against in-form Dinamo Moscow last week.Spartak Moscow had a change of coach last week, when the once Great Dane Michael Laudrup was sacked. Valery Karpin, who is Spartak’s general director, will only take charge of the team until a permanent replacement is found.

The former Russia international playere, coached Spartak to a 2-0 win over Terek Grozny on the last matchday .

The former Russian national team coach, Oleg Romantsev, who has led Spartak to nine Russian championship titles, has returned to the club as a consultant coach.Romantsev was the boss of Russia at Euro 1996 and World Cup 2002.

This will be an important game, as a win for Spartak will narrow the gap to Rubin to only one point; while Rubin can extend the lead at the top of the RPL if they get the victory.

Form Guide
Rubin Kazan:
Points: 11 Position: 1st

Spartak Moscow:
Points: 7 Position: 7

Zenit St Petersburg - FC Khimki
Last week Zenit played away at Lokomotiv Moscow and the game ended in a 1-1 draw; following the game it was revealed that the St Petersburg side had fielded a total of seven foreign players at once – one more than allowed under league rules.

The latest news on that story is that Zenit got lucky and will not face the harshest punishment for breaking the limit on foreign players, the team will pay a fine, but the score of the game won’t be annulled.

FC Khimki got thrashed 3-0 at home by CSKA Moscow.

With news that heavy metal rockers Metallica will open Zenit’s new stadium next year with a rock concert;, the game against FC Khmiki will be chance for Zenit to deliver a mesmerising performance of their own with a win in front of their own fans at the Petrovski stadium.

While the arena is currently under construction, officials say football matches will not be played until 2011.

The stadium will be called ‘The Spaceship’ and built according to plans by the famous Japanese architect, Kisho Kurokawa, it will have a seating capacity of 62,000 people.

It’ll be equipped with a sliding field to keep the grass in good condition during the winter months

Zenit are undefeated so far this season while FC Khimki are dead last.

Form Guide
Zenit St Petersburg:
Points: 9 Position: 4

FC Khimki:
Points: 1 Position: 16

Dinamo Moscow - Kryliya Sovetov (Samara)

Fourth place takes on third place in this game as Dinamo Moscow tangle with Kryliya Sovetov.

Dinamo Moscow's good recent form took a slide as they where thrashed by Champions Rubin Kazan 3-0 last week.

The misery was compounded for Dinamo as one their own, midfielder Kirill Kombarov, put the ball through his own net in the 76th minute.

Dinamo Moscow dropped down to fourth place after being joint top the week before.Last week Kryliya Sovetov Samara where involved in a 0-0 draw against newly promoted Rostov.

Form Guide

Dinamo Moscow:
Points: 9 Position: 4

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara):
Points: 10 Position: 3

Terek Grozny - Saturn Moscow
Terek Grozny from Chechnya and the Aliens of Saturn Moscow battle it out for the control of the galaxy.
Well, the galaxy of the RPL mid-table positions anyway.Both teams have failed to win in their last two games.
The Russian Preview has seen at least one tenuous connection between Saturn and outer space every week, and one hopes this game produces a good atmosphere for the players and fans.

Form Guide
Terek Grozny: WDWLL
Points: 7 Position: 8

The Aliens:
Points: 4 Position: 13


FC Moscow - Tom' Tomsk

Last week FC Moscow had Argentinian Hector Bracamonte to thank for securing a 1-0 win over the Aliens of Saturn Moscow.
"Braca" looks like a character; tall, bearded and bushy haired he does not resemble your typical short Argentinian urchin player.

Both of these teams are in decent form; FC Moscow have won their last two games and Tom Tomsk enjoyed a good result at home last week, beating Spartak Nalchik 1-0.

Form Guide
FC Moscow: LDDWW
Points: 8 Position: 6

Tom Tomsk: LWLDW
Points: 4 Position: 12

CSKA Moscow - FC Rostov-Na-Donu

The Army Men of CSKA Moscow helped themselves to a 3-0 away win over FC Khimki in their last outing.Serbian international Milos Krasic scored a hat-trick to help the Zico-coached side move up to second place only a point behind Rubin Kazan.

The Rostov-Na-Donu had to contend with a 0-0 draw at home to Kryliya Sovetov (Samara).The army boys should be too strategically organised and should have too much fire power for the Dons in this game.

Form Guide

CSKA Moscow:
Points: 10 Position: 2

FC Rostov-Na -Donu:
DDWLD Points: Position: 10

Spartak Nalchik - Amkar Perm'

Spartak Nalchick lost to Tom Tomsk 1-0 last round.Amkar Perm ended their horrid start to the season last week finally getting a win, when they beat the canaries of Kuban Krasnodar 1-0.

It looks like both these teams will spend most of the RPL season in the bottom half of the table.A win for either of these sides will go some way in negating that prediction.

Form Guide

Spartak Nalchik: LDLDL
Points: 2 Position: 15

Amkar Perm: DLDDW
Points: 6 Position: 11

Kuban Krasnodar - Lokomotiv Moscow

The canaries of Kuban where beaten by Amkar Perm last round 1-0 away. Kuban Krasnodar will be hoping to atone for their bad start of the season and treat their fans the “Kubantsy” to only their second win of the season.

The Railway men of Lokomotiv Moscow where lucky to escape with a draw last week against Zenit St Petersburg; as Zenit missed many chances and played with an extra man for the last 13 minutes.Lokomotiv could have received all three points as following the game it was revealed that Zenit had fielded a total of seven foreign players at once – one more than allowed under league rules.

However Zenit escaped with a fine only.

Form Guide
FC Kuban Krasnodar: LWLDL
Points: 4 Position: 14

Lokomotiv Moscow: DDWLD
Points: 6 Position: 12

Con Stamocostas,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The A-League Gets Sexy

There's a lot to look forward to as the fifth ever A-League season approaches.....

With just over three months to go before the season begins, the saying 'time is an unwanted distraction between football matches' has never been more true as excitement builds for the new season.

What a refreshing sight it is to look at the A-league draw and see all those extra teams and extra games. A-League season five will be a defining moment in the growth of Australian football.

Version Four

Version four of the A-League - I’m sure you will agree with me unless you are a Melbourne Victory fan - fizzled out.

The novelty had seemed to wear off with some fans last season, as Version Four was characterised with poor recruitment (particularly from Sydney, Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory), a weak marketing campaign (which ended up de-railing John Aloisi’s year as he got injured making the A-League commercial before the start of the season) and a downturn in crowds compared to the exponential growth in the previous three seasons.

Although I don’t believe that the A-League bubble had burst, even the supreme football optimist would admit that the novelty had worn off somewhat last year.

John Aloisi was booed at every ground he went to, the loudest by the Sydney supporters group 'The Cove' as he continued to miss the ball with embarrassing air swings.

Sydney failed to make the finals for the first time and the team everyone loves to hate was disappointing on and off the pitch.

Wellington Phoenix’s position in the A-league was brought into question by the leader of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohammad Bin Hamman, last year and that is still to be resolved. Wellington could be booted out of the competition in 2011.

Newcastle Jets, champions of the A-league in its third season and proud proponents of total football were the basket case of the A-league last season.

Unable to keep their best players after they won the championship, poor recruitment from overseas and poor form earned the Novocastrians the wooden spoon.

Perth Glory’s team was so old; the fittest person in the club was the masseur as he tended to all those hamstrings.

Central Coast lost their best player, Mile Jedinak, and the team forgot how to defend.That grinding, in your face style soon proved to be ineffective without the Jedi in the middle of the park breaking and starting attacks.

Adelaide United where the best story of the year as they made the final of the Asian Champions League and did very well at the Club World Cup.

Aurelio Vidmar was the star of the show as his description of Adelaide as a “pissant town” made television and newspaper headlines around the country, helping promote the A-League better than any half baked TV ad.

Queensland Roar did come good at the end of the season but even they brought out a yawn. Frank Farina has no charisma at all.

Season Five –A New Beginning

So to the new season of the A-League. And the word new is everywhere - new teams, new rivalries and new stadiums.

Gold Coast United are a breath of fresh air. The buzz created around the team by the billionaire owner Clive Palmer and the league’s most charismatic coach, Miron Blieberg, has been engaging.

The first training session photo’s attracted over 30,000 hits on an Australian football website.'

Mad' Miron Blieberg, as he is sometimes known because of his eccentricity, has promised sexy football and the recruitment of PSV superstar Jason Culina, gun striker Shane Smeltz, and not forgetting the three Brazilians (getting one can be painful enough - ask the ladies), should see some sensual play up on the coast this season.

The first game against Queensland (Brisbane) Roar in Brisbane will test Clive Palmer's prediction that the Gold Coast will win the championship and remain undefeated throughout the season - nothing like a bit of hubris to spice things up.

So if the Gold Coast has made a splash, what about the other new boys, North Queensland Fury?
Well everyone has heard that Robbie Fowler (or 'God' to his mates) will be sweating and huffing and puffing up in the Townsville heat this year.

The first training session God attended attracted over 66,000 hits on the internet.
Even for God those are huge numbers.

The first game against Sydney up in Townsville will be massive, especially since that game will follow the Brisbane Roar – Gold Coast United game - a Queensland double-header that should send the banana benders football crazy.

The 27 games this season will allow teams to create greater familiarisation with playing style, tactics and also an opportunity for coaches to try younger players.

Because the season was only 21 rounds, the coaches took less risks with blooding young players and, if a player got injured for any length of time, that was his season gone.

Fans also are yearning for a cup competition and the FA Cup semi-finals played over the weekend, which featured Australia’s uberstar, Tim Cahill,has not dampened the enthusiasm for a national cup competition.

So this A-league season, I’m sure most fans will welcome exciting prospect of facing new teams, attending more games, a chance to cheer on new heroes and boo the latest villain - and maybe, just maybe, a bit of sexy football as well.

Bring it on.

Con Stamocostas,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Russian Premier League: Matchday 5 Round Up

A controversial round in the Russian Premier League this week as Zenit St. Petersburg face losing points after drawing 1-1 with Lokomotiv Moscow. Following the game it was revealed that Zenit had fielded a total of seven foreign players at once – one more than allowed under league rules.

At the news conference after the game, Zenit coach Dick Advocaat admitted it had been his fault.A decision on the incident will be taken next week.Rubin went to the top of the league while Spartak Moscow won 2-0, a result that would have had recently sacked coach Michael Laudrup looking on in astonishment.

Here is all the rest of the weekend's action

SaturdayTom Tomsk 1- 0 Spartak Nalchik

The Trud Stadium was the venue for the clash between Tom Tomsk and Spartak Nalchik.The 9,000 home fans who attended headed home happy, content in the knowledge that Belarus striker Sergey Kornilenko scored the winner for Tom Tomsk.

The 25 year old grabbed the winner in the77th minute to give the Tomskies their second win of the season, as they moved three places up to ninth.


Tom Tomsk: LWLDW
Points: 4 Position: 12

Spartak Nalchik: LDLDL
Points: 2 Position: 15

Saturn Moscow 0-1 FC Moscow

The Aliens of Saturn Moscow suffered a 1-0 loss to in-form FC Moscow in front of their own fans at the Saturn Stadium.The 9,000-strong support saw Argentinian Hector Bracamonte score what ended up being the winner.

The long haired striker known as “Braca” sealed the three points in the 76th minute. There was drama late on as defender Dmitri Tarasov earned a red card in the 83rd minute for FC Moscow.

You could say that Saturn ran rings around FC Moscow in the last few minutes but it wouldn’t be true as FC Moscow held on for the points. FC Moscow climbs up to sixth place while Saturn orbit 13th position.


The Aliens:
Points: 4 Position: 13th

FC Moscow:
Points: 8 Position: 6th

Spartak Moscow 2-0 Terek Grozny

The news off the field of the sacking of Danish legend Michel Laudrup was the major talking point before this game was played.

As always happens once a coach gets sacked the players were out to impress the new one. So caretaker coach Valery Karpin would have been happy to see 25-year-old Russian international midfielder Vladimir Bystrov and Brazilian Wellington score in the 72nd and 82nd minutes respectively.

The team from Chechnya only had a red card for Mikhail Mischenko in 57th minute to speak of at the Luzhniki Stadium. Michael Laudrup was probably asking why they didn’t play like that for the last month; 15,000 Spartak Moscow fans were probably wondering the same thing.


Spartak Moscow:
Points: 7 Position: 7

Terek Grozny:
Points: 7 Position: 8

Rostov 0 - 0 Kryliya Sovetov (Samara)

The SKA SKVO Stadium was the backdrop for 17,000 fans to witness a nil all draw played out between newly promoted Rostov and league leaders Kryliya Sovetov (Samara).

The team from Samara drop back to third on goal difference while Rostov hang in 10th position.


FC Rostov:
Points: 6 Position: 10

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara):
Points: 10 Position: 3


Amkar Perm 1-0 Kuban Krasnodar

Amkar Perm ended their difficult start to the season finally getting a 1-0 win over the canaries of Kuban Krasnodar.The 11,500 fans at the Zvezda Stadium would have been shaking from the cold and the withdrawal symptoms before the game as that winning feeling had eluded the Perm’s so far this season.

Russian defender Ivan Cherenchikov scored in the 16th minute for the hosts as Amkar Perm climbed from 15th position up to 11th.

Form Guide
Amkar Perm: DLDDW
Points: 6 Position:11th

FC Kuban Krasnodar:
Points: 4 Position: 14

Lokomotiv Moscow 1-1 Zenit St Petersburg

A controversial game ended in a 1-1 draw but that will not be the end of it.

Zenit scored through South Korean international left-back Dong-jin Kim who found himself on the end of a great cross from the right hand side from Viktor Faitzulin.

The 27 year-old, who has started in three consecutive games for Zenit, flew in the air, hanging to head the ball forcefully into the net - a sight which sent the Zenit fans that were situated right behind the goal into ecstasy.

In the 70th minute Lokomotiv Moscow equalised. A corner was swung in from the left, it was flicked into the path of Brazilian defender Bentas Rodolfo whose header flew into top left hand side of the goal.After three minutes of injury time the referee blew the full time whistle.

The railway boys would have been content with the draw, aware that Zenit had created more chances and had an extra man, as the referee had no option but to send off Montenegro international defender Marko Basa.

Lokomotiv held on for the last 13 minutes, but could receive all three points as following the game it was revealed that Zenit had fielded a total of seven foreign players at once – one more than allowed under league rules.

Lokomotiv Moscow:
Points: 6 Position: 12

Zenit St Petersburg:
Points: 9 Position: 4

FC Khimki 0-3 CSKA Moscow

Serbian international Milos Krasic scored a hat-trick to help the Zico coached CSKA Moscow to a 3-0 away win at Khmki.The 24 year-old midfielder scored the goals in the fifth, 31st and 74th minutes of play.

This result moved the army men three places up the RPL ladder to second place with 10 points, a solitary point behind leaders Rubin Kazan.

The soldiers also have scored the most goals so far this RPL season with 10.

The majority of 9,000 fans at the Rodina Stadium in Khmki would have been sullenly walking home as they had to digest two 3-0 thrashings in consecutive weeks after Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) beat them last week.

Khimki prop up the table and have conceded 11 goals so far.

Form Guide

FC Khimki:
Points: 1 Position: 16

CSKA Moscow:

Points: 10 Position: 2

FK Rubin Kazan 3-0 Dinamo Moscow

Rubin Kazan are at last starting to behave like the champions after handing in-form Dinamo Moscow a 3-0 thrashing at the Tsentralnyi Stadium in front of 12,000 very happy fans.

The win takes Rubin to the top of the RPL summit as they moved from third to first with this win and it was the Rubin fans turn to sing “we are top of the league” this week.

After five games Rubin have only conceded one goal and have best defensive record in the RPL.

Russian defender Roman Sharonov was responsible for the first goal of the game, the 33 year-old international scoring in the 10th minute.

The second goal was scored by the in-form number 10 Argentinian Alejandro Dominguez in the 20th minute.

The misery was compounded for Dinamo as one of their own, midfielder Kirill Kombarov, put the ball through their goal in the 76th minute.

Dinamo Moscow drop down to 4th place after being joint top last week.

Form Guide
Dinamo Moscow:
Points: 9 Position: 4

Rubin Kazan:
Points: 11 Position: 1

Con Stamocostas,

Honours Even Between Lokomotiv Moscow And Zenit St. Petersburg

A second half equaliser from Rodolfo saw Lokomotiv grab a 1-1 draw in Moscow today versus (Dirty) Dick Advocaat's Zenit...
The footnote to this game is that Zenit could loose the points as Zenit had fielded a total of seven foreign players at once – one more than allowed under league rules.

At the news conference after the game, Zenit coach Dick Advocaat admitted it had been his fault.
A decision on the incident will be taken next week.

19 Apr 2009

Lokomotiv Moscow 1-1 Zenit St. Petersburg

A persistent snow shower at the Lokomotiv Stadium greeted the players as they ran out onto the field for the start of the game between 9th placed Lokomotiv Moscow and 4th placed Zenit St Petersburg.

Some interesting tiffo from a section of the home fans, with a mass of proud home supporters holding up black plaques that were soon turned over to reveal Lokomotiv’s teams colours.

First Half
A fast and furious start saw an early chance opening in the fifth minute as Nigerian International Striker Peter Odemwingie set up a half chance for the home side Lokomotiv.

The 27 year old stripped the ball off a Zenit player deep in their half and released a pass for 25 year old Russian Striker Dmitri Sychev but the advancing Zenit Goal Keeper Viacheslav Malafeev rushed out quickly and picked up the ball just before the international Striker could get to it.

Zenit created a chance of their own with the next play; however a shot from 22 year old striker Viktor Faitzulin failed to trouble Czech Republic shot stopper Marek Cech, the Russian hitting the shot past the left hand post.

On ten minutes Zenit had a chance to take the lead from a beautiful cross from the left, however the Lokomotiv Keeper Malafeev managed to get to the ball first parrying the ball away to safety just as a Zenit player was about to pounce.

Then around the 20 minute mark Lokomotiv had a good chance to attack when the quick and skilful Nigerian Peter Odemwingie crossed from the left. Unfortunately for the home side the low and hard cross failed to reach a team mate.

Midway through the first half and a nice sequence of passing by Zenit, showed what a pleasure football can be when a side has a good command of passing the ball. The quality possession led to a shot from outside the box by right back Aleksandr Aniukov, the 25 year old Russian international forcing Lokomotiv keeper Cech to get down low to his left.

Then an amazing moment in the match as plumes of smoke may have thwarted a Zenit counter attack. Possibly a flare or a fire cracker lit by the home support saw the smoke drift into the area of the pitch Zenit was attacking.

The Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk eventually hitting a volley from outside the box after some good lead up work from Portuguese midfielder Danny led to the chance. The shot forced the Lokomotiv keeper Cech down low to his right and then the referee Aleksandr Gvardis had to stop play because of the smoke.

There was more action a minute later as this game saw both teams continue to create chances and Zenit’s 25 year old Striker Pogrebniak had the best of the game. The shot by the Russian brought the best out of Slovakian international defender Jan Durica whose block on Pogrebniak’s shot saved the Railway Workers from going down a goal.

Then right before half time the railway workers had their best chance of the game Odemwingie put through a lovely ball for Russian international striker Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to run onto but again the ball would not go into the back of the net.

The Ukrainian Captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk was instrumental in thwarting the attack with some great defending as he got back to help the Zenit defence from midfield.

Second Half
Zenit St Petersburg would have been disappointed with the score line as they where the better side in the first half but had nothing to show for it besides warming the hands of the busy Lokomotiv Keeper Marek Cech. And the keepers’ hands had to look lively again 10 minutes into the second half as he saved a shot that was struck from outside the box.

A minute later Zenit has another amazing opportunity to open the scoring as nice work from the South Korean left back Dong-jin Kim saw him launch a cross into a packed penalty box. Zenit players could not force the ball home as the Lokomotiv defence just about hung on.

Then around the 60th minute for Zenit took the lead, and it was the South Korean International left back Dong-Jin Kim who found himself on the end of a great cross from the right hand side from Viktor Faitzulin.

The 27 year old who has started in three consecutive games for Zenit, flew in the air. He seemed to hang there for an age before his head met the ball forcefully, the sight of net bulging sending the Zenit fans that were situated right behind the goal into mad ecstasy.

The Zenit players then joined the Korean in a rendition of the famous Romario “baby” goal celebration.

The railway boys of Lokomotiv did not give up and found themselves on a counter attack in the 64th minute. Nigerian Striker Odemwingie found himself on the end of a long cross, deep into Zenit’s half, he tried to control the cross with his head but the ball rolled in front of the Zenit keeper Malafeev.

The Russian international keeper then kicked the ball into the path of Lokomotiv striker Sytchev but his tame follow up volley did not trouble the keeper who this time used his hands to stop the Lokomtiv attack.

So around the 69th minute Lokomotiv made a substitute Senegalese striker Djilby Fall coming on for Nigerian Peter Odemwingie.

Then instantly, the Railway Boys scored as a corner was swung in from the left, it was flicked into the path of Brazilian defender Bentas Rodolfo whose header flew into top left hand side of the goal.

The sounds of happy fans cheering and train horns going off went around the Lokomotiv stadium and the fans even had time to sing along to the White Stripes unofficial football anthem Seven Nation Army.

The goal seemed to give Lokomotiv confidence and with that more chances started to come.
First a corner from the right caused a bit of trouble in the box; then shortly after that a shot from Jan Durica in the 75th minute forced Malafeev into a save down low to his left, a beautiful first touch gave the Slovakian international space to shoot.

Then for Lokomtiv, Sytchev made a good run down the right wing, and his cross almost caused Zenit defender Meira to put the ball into the back of his own net.

The next play saw Pogrebniak make a 30 yard run straight down the middle of the field, and as he ran through on goal he was cynically fouled just outside the box. The referee had no option but to send off Montenegro international defender Marko Basa.

Zenit then made a substitution in the 80th minute, putting on Turkish international attacker Fatih Tekke and taking off the fatigued Pavel Pogrebniak.
Zenit had more chances during the climax of the last ten minutes. Fatih Tekke went close in the 79th minute but his shot was blocked by a Lokomotiv defender.

Danny went close for Zenit in the 81st minute, but again Zenit could not take advantage of the extra man, with the Lokomotiv defence desperately clearing the ball away.

After three minutes of injury time the referee blew the full time whistle. The Railway Boys would have been content with the draw while Zenit, who created the more chances and had an extra man for the last 13 minutes, would have been disappointed at not getting all the three points from this game.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Russian Premier League: Matchday 5 Preview

The biggest story of the week in Russian football was the news that Spartak Moscow have confirmed that Michael Laudrup, appointed just seven months ago, is no longer the club's head coach.

The announcement follows the capital outfit's exit from the Russian Cup at the hands of Dynamo Moscow - a defeat which, after they'd finished eighth in the league last term, also brought an end to their hopes of Europa League qualification.

The club declared via an official statement, "Michael Laudrup has been dismissed as head coach due to our recent poor results."

Spartak went on to announce that Valery Karpin, the Estonian-born former Russian international, has been installed as caretaker manager.

The big matches coming up in matchday 5 are Lokomotiv Moscow - Zenit St. Petersburg and Rubin Kazan-Dinamo Moscow.

Fixtures Matchday 5 (all kick-off times GMT)

Saturday, April 18

09:30 FK Tom' Tomsk vs. Spartak Nalchik

12:00 Saturn Moscow vs. FC Moscow

14:30 Spartak Moscow vs. Terek Grozny

17:00 FK Rostov-Na-Donu vs. PFK Samara Kryliya Sovetov

Sunday, April 19

9:30 FK Amkar Perm' vs. Kuban Krasnodar

11:00 Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Zenit St Petersburg

13:30 FC Khimki vs. CSKA Moscow

16:00 FK Rubin Kazan vs. Dinamo Moscow


FK Tom' Tomsk vs. Spartak Nalchik

Tom' Tomsk enjoy the luxury of playing at home this week after drawing away to Kuban Krasnodar. Spartak Nalchik also drew last week. Both teams have the same record for goals scored and conceded.I suspect only the fans from Tomsk and Nalchick will be up for this one.

FORM GUIDE Tom Tomsk - LWLD Points: 4,
Position: 12
Goals scored: 1, Goals conceded: 4

Spartak Nalchik – LDLD
Points: 2, Position: 15
Goals scored: 1, Goals conceded: 4

Saturn Moscow vs. FC Moscow

The Aliens managed an away draw at Spartak Nalchik last week. The Saturn team had 33-year-old Marko Topic to thank for the point as the Bosnia-Herzegovina international equalised late in the game.FC Moscow took Spartak Moscow to school last week. Their strong performance in beating their city rivals 3-1 inevitably led to the sacking of the not-so-great Dane, Michael Laudrup.

Saturn Moscow – LLWD
Points: 4, Position: 11
Goals scored: 4, Goals conceded:7

FC Moscow – LDDW
Points: 5, Position: 7
Goals scored: 3, Goals conceded: 2

Spartak Moscow vs. Terek Grozny

You could say Spartak Moscow have had a pretty bad week. They lost against city rivals FC Moscow 3-1 in matchday 4 of the RPL then got knocked-out of the Russian Cup by Dinamo Moscow. This killed their chances of competing in Europe after the summer as they only finished eighth last season.

Unsurprisingly, coach Michael Laudrup was promptly sacked and was replaced by former Russian international Valery Karpin.It would be no surprise if the team from Chechnya, Terek Grozny, were able to add to Spartak’s misery.

Spartak Moscow – DLWL
Points: 4, Position: 10
Goals scored: 3, Goals conceded:2

Terek Grozny - WDWL
Points: 7 Position: 6
Goals scored: 3, Goals conceded: 2

FK Rostov-Na-Donu vs. PFK Samara Kryliya Sovetov

Rostov have made a shaky start to the RPL, winning only one game so far. The team from Rostov-on-Don, lost 1-0 to Dinamo Moscow last time out.

The Dons face current league leaders, Krylia Sovetov.The team from Samara had an excellent result in their last match, beating cellar dwellers FC Kimki 3-0.

This away trip to face the newly promoted outfit is likely to see a close match.

FC Rostov - DDWL Points: 5 Position: 8th
Goals scored: 2, Goals conceded:2

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) - WWLW
Points: 9 Position: 1st
Goals scored: 6, Goals conceded:2

FK Amkar Perm' V Kuban Krasnodar

Amkar Perm managed to hold Zenit St Petersburg to a nil-nil draw at home last week, and while that was a decent result it doesn’t cover up the fact that the team situated on the banks of Karma River have yet to win this season.

Kuban Krasnodar had a good crowd of around 23,000 to witness a goalless draw against Tom Tomsk the previous week.Will Amkar see any good fortune come round their way against the canaries of Kubantsy?

Amkar Perm–DLDD
Points:3 Position:15th
Goals scored: 0, Goals conceded:1

FC Kuban Krasnodar - LWLD
Points:4, Position:13th
Goals scored: 2, Goals conceded:5

Lokomotiv Moscow V Zenit St Petersburg

Lokomotiv Moscow were thrashed 4-1 at CSKA Moscow last week.The Moscow side will hope new recruit Baye Djiby Fall, Superligaen's leading goal scorer from last season, can improve on the few chances he made last round and provide a clinical edge to his finishing this week.

The Railway Boys enjoy home ground advantage this round against Zenit St Petersburg who disappointingly had a goalless draw against Amkar Perm last week.

Lokomotiv Moscow – DDWL
Points: 5 Position: 9th
Goals scored: 5, Goals conceded:7

Zenit St Petersburg – DWWD
Points: 8 Position: 4th
Goals scored: 6, Goals conceded: 2

FC Khimki V CSKA Moscow

FC Khimki have conceded more goals than any team in the RPL this season, so it is no surprise that they are looking at the ladder from the bottom up.

A 3-0 loss to Kryliya Sovetov Samara last week will give the army boys of CSKA the smell of blood in their nostrils as they are in good form after beating Lokomotiv Moscow 4-1 at home last round.

FC Khimki - DLLL Points: 1 Position:16th
Goals scored: 3, Goals conceded: 8

CSKA Moscow – WLDW
Points: 7 Position: 5th
Goals scored: 7, Goals conceded: 2

FK Rubin Kazan V Dinamo Moscow

I rate this game as being the match to watch out for on matchday five of the RPL.Both teams have good form, Rubin Kazan are yet to lose while Dinamo lead the league.
Alexander Kerzhakov is the leading goal scorer with three goals for Dinamo Moscow.Rubin have conceded only one goal this season.Both teams will be looking for a win to cement their positions on the high end of the ladder.

Dinamo Moscow – WWLW
Points: 9 Position: 2nd
Goals scored: 5, Goals conceded: 3

Rubin Kazan -WDDW
Points: 8 Position: 3rd
Goals scored: 5, Goals conceded: 1

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bling FC Morphs Into Discipline FC

The Bling FC tag that hung uncomfortably around the neck of Sydney FC in the first year of the A-league has been replaced with a new moniker as new Sydney FC coach and ex-Sparta Prague boss Vitezslav Lavicka (pictured) revealed his philosophy for the upcoming A-league season.

During the press conference in Sydney today, Lavicka, who was won league titles in the Czech Republic both as player and as coach, outlined what he proposed to do with Sydney FC. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, for a Czech coach, the first word he uttered was discipline.

Sitting next to his assistant coach Michael Zach who also has experience alongside Lavicka at Sparta Prague and the Czech U-21 side, Lavicka expressed that his coaching method had three elements.

"Discipline means be professional, players, coaching staff and members of the team, respect each other, respect yourself, respect each other together and respect inner club rules," he stated.

"Second of all is motivation; it’s a very important part of my philosophy, motivation improves little by little. We need to improve every training session, every game [with] hard work during all the training sessions.

"Third one is team unity, it’s a very important part, the relationships between the players, good relationships forge good atmosphere in the club and in the team, good atmosphere makes good environment and we can make success."

The Czech coach also made sure to point out that enjoyment was an important aspect s well.

"Another important part is enjoy, enjoy your play, enjoy your work, these together will be part of the success," he continued.

Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek has made comments that have been angering coaches in the A-league since he arrived, mainly that training with a European team was better than playing in the A-League.

The somewhat rhetorical question football folk have been asking since Verbeek made those remarks is: why don’t we make the training in the A-league like Europe then?

Well the players and coaching staff at Sydney FC have a great opportunity to experience what it is to work with a coach with the right credentials from Europe, so it will be interesting to see what effect the two Czech coaches have on the Sydney FC players.

Playing Style

Just like 'Dancing with the Stars' the style debate is a hot topic for people with quick feet. When the question lead inevitably to style the former Czech championship winning coach gave a stock response, saying, "We like attractive football but I know very important is results, we need [to] balance playing attractive football but we need good results."

When asked if he follows a defensive style that has become synonymous with Czech football in recent times, Lavicka gave a frank response, revealing he would favour a 4-4-2 formation this season.

“No - we have to play attractive, not only defensive," he replied.

"We do it more for the people in the stands."

First Impressions

The first opportunity the Sydney FC players and staff had to meet the new coach and his assistant occurred in China last month and he spoke of the impression the club and the players gave him.
"It was good for us for me and Michael it was the first time we met the players and all the team staff - I have a good feeling," he said.

There was a short mention of marquee player and resident dandruff spokesperson John Aloisi, who had a tough season last year, with Lavivka nodding his head he responded,

"I know regarding John Aloisi , he had injuries many times, injuries is big problem for old players, it’s not easy to get back after injury to top level.

“I believe that John Aloisi is professional I know about his special training program before the season I hope he will be a good member of our team."

Regarding Steve Corica who has just signed on for one more year after there was speculation he may retire Lavika was clear on how important the veteran was to the team.

“Every team must have a player maker, a very clever player who can direct the play, this is Steve Corica.

In my opinion is very important, I know his age I want to his role to be always important," he stated.

The Youth
Last season Sydney FC’s youth team won the inaugural A-league youth championship and there are five players who won first team contracts for the upcoming season.Both Lavicka and his assistant Michael Zach had a stint coaching the Czech National under 21 side during the 07/08 season.Regarding the youth situation at Sydney, Lavicka seemed optimisitic, adding,

"I have good experience working with young players I know that the youth team has many good player good future for the team

"I know the Sydney FC youth team last year was champions, I know that many young players can be integrated to the professional team together with the experienced players, step by step little by little it will be a success."

Can Sydney Win the League?

'We hope' was the answer the new Sydney FC Boss gave and so do the Cove and the rest of the Sydney fans.

Last season Sydney fans had the displeasure of watching other A-league team participate in the finals for the first time as the club failed to make the top four.

Gold Coast United have already said they have ambitions to win the League and remain undefeated in the first season.Upon hearing what Gold Coast had targeted for next season Lavika said, "It’s motivation for us."

Message to the Fans

And finally rounding out the press conference Lavika had this message for the fans, asserting,

"Football is our job, but football is played for the spectators, for the fans, so I want to wish many more fans to come."

While Gold Coast and North Queensland have been making all the headlines in the off season, and perhaps all the attention will be on the new boys. Sydney FC will be looking to make up for last season's disappointing performance on and off the field.

Opponents should beware the wounded animal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Australia’s Football Renaissance Remains Incomplete

From poor television deals to the placebo affects of the salary cap and lingering corruption, Australian football dare not enter into a state of complacency. (Joshua "Jesus" Kennedy Pictured)

The Renaissance was an era that wanted a free culture, a new form of art and to free humans from the bondage of traditions.

The transformation of 'Old Soccer' into 'New Football' has been called a 'Football Renaissance', but the reality is that, although some change has occurred, some of the bad old days don’t want to leave us.
New Football and Old Soccer

New Football promised stability, football that was free from corruption and a hope that qualifying for World Cups was going to bring in lots of money and even a crazy idea that Australia could one day lift the famous trophy.

The salary cap was going to protect clubs from going under, unlike the NSL (National Soccer League), in which players sometimes had to wait months for unpaid wages - some are still waiting.

The clubs were going to be playing in better stadiums and the new football teams would be free of the dreaded ethnic tag that was holding back the game locally.

I am no scary Prophet of Doom or high spirited Pollyanna; I leave the depressive and manic behaviour for the stands.

However, I did feel déjà vu when I heard the news that two A-League clubs, Adelaide United and Queensland Roar, were facing financial difficulties and may be forced to hand their licenses back to Football Federation Australia.

In the Roar’s case, an expensive agreement with the Queensland State Government to rent Suncorp Stadium has had a debilitating affect on major owner Laurence Oudendyk’s finances.

The situation for Adelaide is that owners Bianco Constructions are experiencing difficulties and may be forced to hand in their A-League license.

This is not good news, especially since two new clubs, Gold Coast United and the North Queensland Fury, are about to enter the A-League next season.

While there has been no confirmation by the FFA that the licenses will be handed back, you have to ask the question:
If the salary cap was introduced to save clubs from financial ruin, why are two clubs struggling?

Poor TV Deal and Poor Stadiums

Last week, Central Coast Mariners backer Peter Turnbull let out an astonishing tirade after the Mariners got thumped by Japanese side Kawsaki Frontale in the Asian Champions League.

The Sydney Morning Herlad quoted Turnbull as having said that the A-League would struggle to bridge the gap as long as national team manager Pim Verbeek continued to discourage leading Socceroos from returning from Europe, whilst at the same time as encouraging emerging talent to head in the opposite direction.

I take the view that most players are thinking, "Show me the money,” and that Turnbull’s remark was a case of sour grapes. A-League clubs simply cannot afford the higher wages that cash rich Asian and European clubs can offer.

I believe that Australia’s footballing growth is being held back by State Governments charging high fees for stadium use and a TV deal that is so poor some A-League club owners are being forced to look at option of giving the license back to Football Federation Australia.
The conversation about the TV deal has been mostly muted. However the majority of fans remain disgruntled at the Socceroos and the A-League for not having a presence on free to air television.

While Fox Sports have done a great job with the promotion of the game, the idea of football getting a shot at free to air will not happen because the TV deal is set in stone until 2013.

I don’t see Foxtel giving up a prime asset without financial compensation.

This seems a shame as the popularity of the Socceroos cannot be underestimated at this time. TV ratings for the Australia-Uzbekistan game were at record levels. The biggest ever audience on Australian pay TV was a game the Socceroos played, against opposition most folks in the mainstream population would never have heard of.

You wonder what the figures would have been if the game was on free to air, as only around 25 per cent of the population have pay TV.

FIFA is the organisation that handles the TV rights for the World Cup and, luckily for Australian audiences, the finals will be shown on SBS in 2010 and 2014.

The stadium debate is another hot topic. Most A-League fans were left less than amused at the state of some of the pitches last season.There were stories of Andre Riu and Madonna concerts being scheduled days before A-League games, all night rave parties leaving a trail of glass on the pitch and unexplained grass diseases causing divots players could easily fall into.

It can be frustrating at times to be a football fan in Australia. You have to pay a subscription fee to watch your local or national team, usually on a sub standard pitch.
Depending on where you live, that time honoured traditional of listening to the radio as you drive home from the game is not an option in places like Sydney, because no-one is calling the game.

The financial credit crunch has put a spotlight on the world’s finances and football is no different.
Australian football does not have the benefit of the AFL’s Rugby Union or NRL’s large TV deal to help pay the bills.To steal some finance jargon, the FFA, have to get their revenue streams maximised.

Two new teams and a longer season will help, so will a national FA cup style competition.
Let’s dream and say also national radio coverage would benefit.
Let’s not also forget images that watching the Socceroos at the World Cup is something that could only be likened to an iconic image.

The World Cup is like a great painting, the images stay in the memory forever, and it’s these iconic images that capture the hearts and minds of potential football fans.


A famous line about corruption is that, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

On April 6 the Four Four Two Australia website reported, “Former Sydney FC assistant coach Aytek Genc has revealed a thug culture among a small number of so-called Sydney Olympic fans was behind his resignation from the club.”

Apparently Genc resigned from the New South Wales Premier League club after he was allegedly heavied into making certain team selections.
This type of episode is not new in Australian football.

While Australian football has had a recent polish and looks shiny and new from outside, even with the recent success of the World Cup-bound Socceroos, the implementation of the Crawford Report and the inception of the A League, there are still Old Soccer challenges that New Football must find solutions for.

Then only then, will it be a true Renaissance.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Russian Premier League: Matchday 4 Round-Up

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) 3 - 0 FC Khimki

The Metallurg Stadium was the venue for the game between Kryliya Sovetov and FC Khimki. 16,000 Samara fans would have enjoyed the short trip home, singing "we are top of the league".

Not so for the away team as they now languish at the bottom of the ladder.

The first goal of the game went to tall Czech striker Jan Koller in the 23rd minute. Ruslan Adzhindzhal added a second for Krylia Sovetov; the 34 year-old Russian midfielder converted a penalty in the 66th minute of play.

The scoring was finished by Timofey Kalachev; the Belarus midfielder scoring in the 79th minute of play.

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara):
Points: 9 Position: 1

FC Khimki: DLLL
Points: 1 Position: 16

FC Moscow 3-1 Spartak Moscow

The first of the big Russian derbies took place at FC Moscow’s home ground, the Eduard Streltsov Stadium, where 12,000 souls saw FC Moscow triumph over their cross town rivals.

Edgaras Cesnauskis scored FC Moscow’s first goal of the season, the Lithuanian midfielder scored right on the one minute mark. The 25 year-old was able to profit from the good work of the tall and hairy Argentinian striker Héctor Bracamonte.

The man they call “Braca” was juggling the ball in the box and as he turned to shoot the ball, it fell invitingly to Cesnauskis and he slotted away the goal from only six yards.

The team formerly known as FC Torpedo-Metallurg doubled their lead in the 16th minute. 22 year-old defender Alexandru Epureanu netting the strike.

A free kick was awarded on the left hand side of the pitch and Alexander Samedov struck the cross low and hard towards the Spartak penalty area; the ball was flicked on by the man-beast, “Braca”, and the Moldovan easily slotted the header away from three yards out.

Spartak Moscow where trying to make some inroads with Brazilian Wellington getting in space, however the Moldovan goal scorer Epureanu was involved in some fine blocks that broke up Spartak’s attacks.

As the end of the first half was approaching, Spartak started to get more control of the midfield through Brazilian Alex however the FC Moscow defence was holding strong.

Second Half

The first 10 minutes of the second half saw both teams try and play the ball on the ground as Spartak looked to claw back parity while FC Moscow looked to extend their lead and should have done 55 minutes in.

A teasing cross by right full-back Kirill Nababkin found former Shakhtar Donetsk striker Zvonomir Vucic, who contrived to miss the goal from only a few yards in front.

Spartak Moscow should have got a goal back in the 60th minute of play but a fine header from Alex was cleared off the line by the in-form Alexandru Epureanu who was everywhere for the home side.

The middle of the second half saw Dmitri Tarasov, the Russian attacking midfielder, make the scoreline more emphatic for FC Moscow. The 22 year-old extended the lead with a great header to make it 3-0 in the 70th minute.

It was another set piece from 24 year-old midfielder Samadov that undid the Spartak Moscow defence.

Late in the game, it was Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex who scored a penalty for Spartak Moscow, making the final score 3-1 for the hosts.

FC Moscow – LDDW
Points: 5 Position: 7
Spartak Moscow – DLWL
Points: 4 Position: 10

Terek Grozny 1-2 Rubin Kazan

Last year’s champions Rubin Kazan put aside their recent poor form where they only managed two goalless draws to beat the team from Chechnya, Terek Grozny, 2-1.

Rubin’s goals came in the first half, firstly through 33 year-old Russian international midfielder Sergei Semak in the 18th minute.

Then the gifted Argentine attacking midfielder Alejandro Dominguez doubled the lead a couple of minutes later.

Shamil Lakhiyalo got a 90th minute consolation goal for the home fans to make final score line 2-1.

Rubin are up to third after this game while Terek fall to 6th after leading the RPL last week.

Terek Grozny - WDWL
Points: 7 Position: 6
Rubin Kazan -WDDW
Points: 8 Position: 3

Dinamo Moscow 1-0 FC Rostov

Dinamo Moscow were part of the winners circle this week as the oldest team in Russian football put aside last week’s defeat to Terek Grozny to go to joint top of the RPL ladder.

The home support of 8,054 at the Noviye Khimki ground saw 26 year-old Russian international forward, Alexander Kerzhakov, convert a penalty in the 77th minute to take his tally in the RPL to three goals.

Dinamo Moscow - WWLW
Points: 9 Position: 2
FC Rostov - DDWL
Points: 5 Position: 8

FC Kuban Krasnodar 0-0 Tom Tomsk

The Kuban Stadium saw a very healthy crowd of 23,000 watch two teams that are not expected to be title contenders battle it out.Unfortunately the Kubansty home fans saw only saw a 0-0 draw played out against Tom Tomsk.


FC Kuban Krasnodar - LWLD
Points: 4 Position: 13
Tom Tomsk - LWL D
Points: 4 Position: 12

CSKA Moscow 4-1 Lokomotiv MoscowZico’s team was able to thrash a disappointing Lokomotiv Moscow 4-1 in the game of the round.The first goal for CSKA Moscow came in the 35th minute; a free kick just outside the Lokomotiv box was set up for the young Russian international Alan Dzagoev to score a sublime opener.

Yuri Zhirkov doubled the lead for CSKA in the 55th minute, finishing off a nice move that started off just inside the home team’s own half. Alan Dzagoev then scored his second of the match in the 72nd minute to make the score 3-0 for the home side.

A Milos Krasic floating cross found the young ace in the six yard box and the number 10 for CSKA Moscow made the header look quite easy.

Vagner Love’s absence was all but forgotten as the 18 year old basically owned this game.

Marko Basa the Montenegro defender got a consolation goal for the away team scoring in the 79th minute but four minutes from full time the Army men extended their lead. Zhirkov set up the Nigerian, Moussa Maazou; the 20 year-old scoring on his debut.

CSKA Moscow – WLDW
Points: 7 Position: 5
Lokomotiv Moscow – DDWL
Points: 5 Position: 9

Zenit St Petersburg 0-0 Amkar Perm

Zenit missed their chance to go top of the RPL as they could only manage a nil all draw at the Petrovski Stadium in front of 19,500.

The second half had five yellow cards given to Amkar Perm players.

Zenit St Petersburg – DWWD
Points: 8 Position: 4 Amkar Perm – DLDD
Points: 3 Position: 15

Spartak Nalchik 1-1 Saturn Moscow

The last game of match day four was played at Spartak Stadium. 12,000 fans watched on as Spartak Nalchik and the Aliens of Saturn Moscow Oblast score goals in the final six minutes of the game.
An entertaining finale saw Georgian international, 31 year old Alexander Amisulashvili, score in the 82nd minute for Spartak Nalchick; while for the Aliens, 33 year old Bosnia-Herzegovina international Marko Topic equalised a minute later.

Spartak Nalchik – LDLD
Points: 2 Position: 15
The Aliens – LLWD
Points: 4 Position: 11

Con Stamocostas,

CSKA Thrash Lokomotiv In Moscow Derby

Last season’s runners up CSKA Moscow took on Lokomotiv Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium during match day four. A 20,000 strong crowd were there to see biggest game of the Russian Premier League season so far....

13 Apr 2009 11:33:01

First Half

The start of the first half was signalled with a Lokomotiv raid down the left wing by 25 year-old Russian international Dmitri Sychev; his great cross was parried away by the CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

The first ten minutes were very competitive as both teams fought for possession and control of midfield.
Then, Milos Krasic, the Serbian international, combined with Alan Dzagoev in midfield.The space they created saw the Serbian power towards the Lokomotiv goal and release Yuri Zhirkov, last year’s Russian player of the year. He ran onto the pass from the left wing only to spray his hard shot wide past the keeper’s far post.

Fifteen minutes gone and Lokomotiv found some room on the right with Dmitri Torbinsky; the 24 year old found himself in a one-on-one situation with Georgi Shchennikov, and he took the opportunity to accelerate past the CSKA defender, crossing a ball from the by-line only for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to head the ball over the bar, albeit from an awkward height.

On 20 minutes the game opened up as CSKA had to defend a tricky run by Lokomotiv attacker Djilby Fall; his cross into the box from the left hand side was then met with a swift CSKA counter attack. A Milos Krasic cross floating into the path of Dzagoev; who could only miss from six yards out, his header going wide.

CSKA had all the ball but could not break the Lokomotiv defence, who were relying on the counter attack
A free kick in the 35th minute just outside the Lokomotiv goal was set up for the young Russian international Alan Dzagoev to score a sublime opener.The Lokomotiv goalkeeper Marek Cech acted like a spectator as the ball curled over the wall with pace and flew past his right shoulder into the goal.

Second Half
Lokomotiv players must love the sound of the whistle, as they again kicked off proceedings with an attack straight after the kick-off, courtesy of midfielder Dennis Glushakov; his hard and low shot going wide of the right post.

Zhirkov though, doubled the lead for CSKA in the 55th minute, finishing off a nice move that started off just inside the home team’s own half. Alan Dzagoev was only one of the architects of the goal for the army side, as the move began with Chidi Odiah; Eugeni Aldonin was involved twice, then finishing the move by crossing in for Zhirkov to blast the ball into the roof off the net.

CSKA almost tripled their advantage in the 67th minute of play. It was Zhirkov again who found himself in the box and he shot against the post, the ball coming back to him and his follow up shot going over the bar.

A corner soon after for CSKA saw more pressure piled on the visitors, as midfielder Pavel Mamaev shot from distance forcing the Lokomotiv keeper into a difficult save down low to his right

Alan Dzagoev then scored his second of the match in the 72nd minute to make the score 3-0 for the home side. A Milos Krasic floating cross found the young ace in the six yard box and the number 10 for CSKA Moscow made the header look quite easy.

Vagner Love's (pictured) absence was all but forgotten as the 18 year old basically owned this game.

Marko Basa, the Montenegro defender, got a consolation goal for the away team scoring in the 79th minute; heading in a long ball from the left by substitute David Mujiri.Four minutes from full time the army team extended their lead, with Zhirkov setting up Nigerian substitute Moussa Maazou, who duly scored on his debut.

The score remained 4-1 in favour of CSKA and the home team ended their three game goalless run with four quality strikes. Lokomotiv have a week to think about how badly they played.

Con Stamocostas,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Russian Premier League: Matchday 4 Preview

Russian Premier League: Matchday 4 Preview

I preview another intriguing weekend in the RPL...

Fixtures Match Day Four (GMT)

April 10

15:00 Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) - FC Khimki

April 11

11:00 FC Moscow - Spartak Moscow

11:45 Terek Grozny - Rubin Kazan

14:00 Dinamo Moscow - Rostov –Na –Donu16:15

Kuban Krasnodar - Tom Tomsk

April 12

11:00 CSKA Moscow - Lokomotiv Moscow

13:30 Zenit St Petersburg - Amkar Perm

16:00 Spartak Nalchik - Saturn Moscow


Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) - FC Khimki
Kryliya Sovetov finished sixth in the RPL last season. The team from Samara suffered their first loss of the season to Lokomotiv Moscow last week.

The previous RPL season saw FC Khimki finish in 14th place. Last week’s loss at home to FC Rostov has the team languishing in 15th place.

Kryliya Sovetov sit third on the ladder and are the favourites for this game.

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) - WWL
FC Khimki - DLL


FC Moscow - Spartak Moscow
With six teams from Moscow playing in the RPL it’s easy to get them all confused. FC Moscow have not had a good start to the season so far. They finished in ninth place last season; currently they sit in 14th place after two draws and a loss. Last week’s result saw them draw away to champions Rubin Kazan.

Spartak Moscow won their first game of the season last week against Spartak Nalchik; their two Brazilian strikers Alex and Wellington helping them to 2-0 win.

FC Moscow - LDD
Spartak Moscow - DLW

Terek Grozny - Rubin Kazan
Last season’s tenth place finisher, Terek Grozny, sit at the top of the RPL on equal points with Zenit St Petersburg.
A very happy home crowd of 14,000 saw captain Timur Dzhabrailov collect the points for the home side in the 13th minute last round against Dinamo Moscow.

Rubin Kazan endured a frustrating time last week missing a host of chances against FC Moscow.
The game ended 0-0, the second consecutive game Kazan had been involved in that score line. Top scorer in the RPL with two goals Alexander Bukharov will be hoping to redeem himself this week against the surprise packets from Chechnya.

Terek Grozny - WDW
Rubin Kazan -WDD

Dinamo Moscow V FC Rostov
Dinamo were riding high with two wins from their opening two games; that was until they met Terek Grozny who epitmoised the motto “power in motion” in infilciting on them their first defeat of the season.

The team who were promoted to the RPL this season, FC Rostov, had a good away win last week against FC Khimki.
The odds are with Dinamo Moscow getting a win this round, however.Joint top scorer in the RPL Alexander Kerzakhov of Dinamo Moscow will be looking to add to his tally of two goals.

Dinamo Moscow - WWL
Rostov - DDW

FC Kuban Krasnodar - FC Tom Tomsk
Kuban Krasnodar was promoted to the RPL this season. Mali striker, Draman Traore, also sits on top of the goals scorer charts with two goals so far for his side.

Tom Tomsk were thrashed by Zenit St Petersburg last week while Kuban lost to Saturn Moscow.

FC Kuban Krasnodar - LWL
Tom Tomsk - LWL


CSKA Moscow - Lokomotiv Moscow
Last season’s runners up, CSKA Moscow, drew away at unfancied FK Amkar Perm' last week.
Brazilian Zico has the team sitting in mid table with four points amassed and a position of eighth. Russian international defender Sergei Ignashevich is joint top scorer in the RPL with two goals.

Lokomotiv Moscow enjoyed a 2-1 win against Kryliya Sovetov last round. Midfielder Dennis Glushakov, 22, has two goals so far this season for Lokomotiv.

This should be an enthralling contest between these old city rivals.

CSKA Moscow - WLD
Lokomotiv Moscow - DDW

Zenit St Petersburg - Amkar Perm
Zenit St Petersburg enjoyed a 3-0 away win against FK Tom' Tomsk last week.
Zenit have a squad full of international players and are coached by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, they currently sit atop of the RPL with two wins and a draw from their first three games.31 year-old Turkish international, Fatih Tekke, has two goals for Zenit this season.

Amkar Perm finished fourth in the RPL last season earning a spot in next season’s Europa League.This campaign they are struggling with only two points earned so far; the positive for this match is they kept CSKA Moscow to a 0-0 draw at home last week.
Zenit should be too strong at home; however the weather in Russia can be a great leveller.

Zenit St Petersburg - DWW
Amkar Perm - DLD

Spartak Nalchik - Saturn Moscow
Spartak Nalchik ended up on the losing side after Spartak Moscow beat them at home 2-0 last week.
The result of that the game has given the team from Nalchick, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, the inglorious task of holding up the RPL ladder as they sit on one point and have yet to score a goal so far this season.

As for Saturn, last week, the Aliens gave the humans of Kuban Krasnodar a football lesson, beating them 2-1 at home.
32-year-old Dmitri Kirichenko got both goals for the men from outer space.

Will the Aliens hover around Spartak Nlachick’s altitude long enough to beat them?
The truth is always stranger than fiction.

Spartak Nalchik - LDL
The Aliens - LLW

Con Stamocostas,