Tomorrow, two clubs which have never the Russian Cup – the young Krasnodar and historic Rostov – will do battle in Kaspiysk to determine who will lift the trophy, earning the first piece of major silverware for their club and the right to play in European competition next season. As the clock ticks down to kick-off, MTA looks at the route each club has taken to get to the final.
Round of 32
Dolgoprudny 1-4 Krasnodar; Angusht Nazran 0-1 Rostov
In Russia’s domestic cup, as in many around Europe, top flight teams do not enter in the first round, and in granted a leave of absence until the field has been whittled down sufficiently. In Russia, organisers wait until Premier League sides make up half the draw before throwing them into the mix, ensuring every remaining club gets the chance to try and topple a top flight giant – aiding them by handing them a home tie in the first instance.
This season, now fewer than 10 clubs managed just that, sending the likes of Zenit, Dinamo, Rubin and Lokomotiv tumbling from the competition at the first hurdle, causing some of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition and leading to a thoroughly enthralling two days of football.
Both Krasnodar and Rostov, however, avoided that indignity in contrasting manners. Drawn against First Division basement dwellers Angusht, Rostov relied on an early goal from Alexander Vasiliev to see off the Ingush side, while Krasnodar were ruthless in their approach against third-tier Dolgoprudny, two goals from Marcos Pizelli ending the Moscow Region club’s dreams.
Round of 16
Krasnodar 3-2 Zvezda Ryazan; Rostov 3-0 Alania Vladikavkaz
With a host of lower league sides still in the draw at this late stage, the remaining Premier League teams – particularly the likes of CSKA and Spartak – began to plot their way to the final, seeing the cup as the ideal opportunity to pick up some silverware. For the lesser lights of the top tier, three wins would see them to the showpiece final, and a chance to shine on the national stage.
The shock of the round came in Moscow as Spartak were humbled by lowly Tosno, but Krasnodar came very close to having their own journey end in humiliating fashion. Their tie against Zvezda, another third-tier outfit, swung back and forth, the underdogs twice managing to equalise, before Wanderson emerged to fire home the winner after 62 minutes and send his team into the last eight.
By contrast, Rostov booked their place in the next stage without kicking a ball – opponents Alania withdrawing after going bankrupt in February.
Krasnodar 3-0 Tosno; Rostov 3-0 Rotor Volgograd
By the quarter final stage, the potential of upsets had decreased, with the scale of such shocks magnified. The two finalists faced off against the two most lowly teams in the competition, and with home draws for the last eight, any thoughts of defeat were quashed by managers in the build-up.
Krasnodar’s opponents, Tosno, had already taken out two Premier League sides – first Ural on penalties and then Spartak in extra time. Determined not to be beaten over the distance by the newly-professional minnows, Ari shot the hosts into the lead as early as the 11th minute, with a second goal from Pavel Mamaev coming swiftly afterwards. With their lower league opponents unable to match their speed of attack, a third goal came in the second half to seal a comfortable win.
Their margin of victory was matched by Rostov, who in contrast to Krasnodar’s opponents who were flying high and seeking promotion, faced a Rotor side struggling for survival in the second tier. With attentions elsewhere, the visitors were punished by an early goal from Alexandru Gatcan, and goals from Spartak loanees Jano Ananidze and Artem Dzyuba were more than enough to settle the tie.
CSKA Moscow 0-1 Krasnodar; Rostov 3-1 Luch-Energia Vladivostok
With all four teams in the semis just 90 minutes away from a shot at glory and Europe, mistakes at this stage would be magnified. Caution would be the name of the game, with an unusual line-up of semi-finalists looking to make the most of the opportunities presented by results earlier in the competition.
In Moscow, the game was tight and edgy, with the high stakes obvious. Ever since their Moscow rivals and Zenit had crashed out, CSKA had been favourites for the title, and with home advantage had every chance of going through. However, Oleg Kononov’s men won through, Wanderson again providing the vital goal, and taking his young club one step further on their journey to becoming a domestic power.
Rostov, meanwhile, were favourites for their home game against Luch, travelling from the Pacific Coast for a chance at success. In a similar vein to the Rotor game, Gatcan scored early to settle any nerves, and the Jano/Dzyuba combination once again produced the goods for the other two goals, Vladimir Romanenko’s 39th-minute equaliser proving little more than consolation in the end for the Far Eastern club. Having only reached the final once in the club’s 84-year history, Miodrag Bozovic’s side would be hoping to do one better and calim the trophy on the Caspian Sea.
Both clubs have had strong seasons, with Krasnodar on the brink of beating Spartak to a European berth and Rostov’s early surge leading to a comfortable midtable finish. Rostov have had the easier journey to the final, conceding just a single goal and having to play one match less, but Krasnodar have the stronger squad and come into the final in stronger form after three wins from their last four games – all the victories coming away from home. Rostov triumphed the last time the two sides met in the league, but on the big stage, I expect Krasnodar to edge a tight game by the odd goal.