Tournament hosts Russia emerged victorious for the second year in a row in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Cup today following a 4-2 win over arch-rivals Ukraine in St Petersburg.
The form guide going into the final suggested that Ukraine were the favourites over Russia. The Ukrainians finished top of Group C ahead of Lithuania, Moldova and Turkmenistan with a 100% record before fate decided that they would meet two of their group opponents in the knockout rounds; Moldova were thrashed 5-0 in the quarter-finals before Ukraine won by the odd goal in three in their semi-final against Lithuania. Russia, on the other hand, won one and drew the other two games in Group B but still managed to top the group ahead of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan who they also beat in the quarter-finals before they won their semi-final match against Belarus by two goals to one.
The final, played before a 10,000 crowd at St Petersburg’s Sports and Concert Complex, turned out to be a goal fest. Russia took the lead after just five minutes through Nikita Bocharov only for Vladyslav Kalitvintsev to equalize just ten minutes later. The Russians would end the first half holding a 2-1 advantage following Andrei Panyukov’s 38th minute strike but Ukraine levelled matters for a second time after the break when Vitali Ivanko made it 2-2 just after the hour mark. Panyukov bagged his second goal of the game in the 75th minute to re-establish Russia’s lead for a third time, one which they would fail to relinquish. The deal was sealed in stoppage time when Emin Makhmudov scored from the penalty spot and gave the host nation title glory for the second year in a row.
Having begun as a pre-season tournament for champion club sides from the former Soviet republics, the CIS Cup decided to change in 2012 in order to incorporate national youth teams. This was as a result of the waning interest shown to the competition by various club sides that preferred either to spend pre-season training in warmer climes or to participate in much more financially lucrative pre-season competition elsewhere. Nevertheless the competition has gained a renewed sense of purpose under its current guise and today’s final between two talented teams of youngsters shows that this competition might just have a vibrant future yet.
Azerbaijani champions Inter Baku have won the 19th Commonwealth of Independent States Cup in St Petersburg having beaten Belarussian representatives Shakhstyor Soligorsk in Sunday’s final on penalties. It is the third time in five years that a team from Azerbaijan has won the trophy.
Inter got to the final by virtue of finishing top of Group A with a 100% record against Istiqlol Dushanbe, FC Iskra-Stal and Neftchi Khorkor-Ata before disposing of Mika Yerevan and local side Zenit Saint Petersburg in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively. Inter’s opponents Shakhstyor Soligorsk finished top of Group C containing Zenit, Flora Tallinn and FC Balkan before dumping out record winners Dynamo Kyiv and three-time finalists Skonto Riga in the knockout rounds.
The final promised much but, sadly, didn’t deliver in terms of goalscoring action. With both of the finalists scoring a combined total of 29 goals in their ten matches and containing each of the tournament’s two leading scorers, Ģirts Karlsons (Inter) and Aleksandr Alumona (Shakhstyor), much more was expected of a final which ultimately ended goalless after extra-time. Therefore penalties were needed to decide the winner of the tournament and it would be Inter Baku who would be celebrating after winning the shoot-out 6-5 becoming the third team from Azerbaijan to win the tournament after Neftchi Baku (2006) and Khazar Lankaran (2008).
The 2011 Commonwealth of Independent States Cup, currently being held in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, has completed its group stages and the sixteen teams at the start of the tournament have now been whittled down to eight. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments in the competition.
Local representatives Zenit St Petersburg may have sent a team comprising of youth players to the tournament but they managed to make it to the last eight of the competition when finishing second in Group C. Both Zenit and Belarussians Schakhtsyor Saligorsk won two and drew one of their three games with the latter having a superior goal difference thanks mainly to a 6-0 win over Flora Tallinn in their final group match. Zenit weren’t so spectacular in the group phase, only scoring four goals compared to Schakhtsyor’s total of nine, but they did what they had to in order to go through.
Dynamo Kyiv, record winners of this event with four titles, also progressed to the last eight despite not winning a game when finishing third in Group D. This is because the Russian Under-21 side, who won two out of their three games, is unable to progress beyond the group stage due to their participation being an hors concours invitation, therefore allowing Dynamo to join Finnish champions HJK Helsinki out of the group stage meaning Lithuanians FK Ekranas miss out. In Group B Latvian champions Skonto Riga kept up their wonderful early pre-season campaign under new coach Marians Pahars by topping the group with seven points out of nine to reach the quarter-finals along with second place Mika FC. The Armenians scraped past Kazakhstan’s FC Tobol Kostanay thanks to goal difference with both teams having an identical record after three games. Azerbaijan’s Inter Baku won all three games in Group A to accumulate nine points and finish three points ahead of Tajikistan participants Istiqlol Dushanbe who also got through to the quarter-finals in their maiden CIS Cup appearance.
Inter Baku (Azerbaijan) v Mika FC (Armenia)
Skonto Riga (Latvia) v Istiqlol Dushanbe (Tajikistan)
Schakhtsyor Soligorsk (Belarus) v Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)
Zenit St Petersburg (Russia) v HJK Helsinki (Finland)
The four quarter-final matches will be played on Wednesday, January 19th
The 2011 Commonwealth of Independent States Cup takes place in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg from January 15th-23rd. Having failed to win the 2010 Russian Premier League, CIS Cup holders Rubin Kazan are unable to defend the title they won last year. Although not every team participating in this tournament is likely to send a full strength side the event is still prevalent on the calendar and is now its 19th year. Who will take their place as the best football team in the former Soviet Bloc? Here is a preview of each of the four groups in this year’s competition:
GROUP A: (Inter Baku; FC Iskra-Stal; Istiqlol Dushanbe; FC Neftchi Kochkor-Ata)
INTER BAKU: Qualified as champions of Azerbaijan having pipped FK Baku to the 2010 championship title by a point with FK Qarabağ and Khazar Lankaran a further point behind in a tightly fought contest. Have only had one previous appearance in this tournament in 2009 where they reached the semi-finals only to be knocked out by FK Aktobe.
ISKRA-STAL: Moldova’s representatives following FC Sheriff Tiraspol’s refusal to enter. FC Iskra-Stal, from the town of Rîbniţa in eastern Moldova, came second in the 2010 Moldovan league finishing a distant 19 points behind Sheriff. This is their first appearance in the CIS Cup.
ISTIQLOL DUSHANBE: The club from the capital city of Tajikistan won their maiden national title in 2010 having seen off the challenge of FK Redar-TegAZ by a comfortable 13 point margin in 2010. Their reward is a first appearance in the CIS Cup.
FC NEFTCHI KOCHKOR-ATA: Hailing from western Kyrgyzstan, FC Neftchi just held out to win a first ever national league title in 2010. Having beaten traditional powers FC Dynamo-Dordoi to the championship by a solitary point FC Neftchi can now look ahead to a first appearance in the CIS Cup.
GROUP B: (FC Bunyodkor; Mika Yerevan; Skonto Riga; FC Tobol Kostanay)
FC BUNYODKOR: The new dominant power in Uzbekistan sealed their third consecutive championship in 2010 seeing off their traditional Tashkent rivals Pakhtakor with an eight point margin. In their only CIS Cup appearance to date Bunyodkor reached the quarter-final stage in 2010 but succumbed to HTTU Ashgabat after a penalty shoot out.
FK MIKA YEREVAN: None of Armenia’s top three teams opted to send a team to Russia for this tournament so FK Mika, who finished fourth in their league championship last season, are left to fill the void. This will be their maiden showing in this tournament.
SKONTO RIGA: Latvia’s record champions finally ended a six year trophy drought in 2010 winning their 15th league title following the usual three-way tussle with FK Ventspils and FHK Liepājas Metalurgs. Skonto have participated in this tournament on many occasions and have finished runners-up three times in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
FC TOBOL KOSTANAY: Situated in northern Kazakhstan FC Tobol finished one point ahead of FK Aktobe in the title race and, thus, became champions for the first time in the club’s history. This is the first time that FC Tobol will participate in this tournament.
GROUP C: (FC Balkan; Flora Tallinn; Schakhtsyor Salihorsk; Zenit St Petersburg)
FC BALKAN: Turkmenistani champions in 2010, FC Balkan secured their second domestic title with a five point margin over Altyn Asyr FC. Have competed in this tournament once before in 2005 under the name of Nebitçi Balkanabat but failed to get past the group stage.
FLORA TALLINN: Finally got their hands on the Estonian Meistriliiga title for the first time since 2003 when getting the better of eternal rivals Levadia by five points. Flora have reached the quarter-finals of the CIS Cup in three consecutive years from 2002-04 but have never got beyond this stage.
SCHAKHTSYOR SOLIGORSK: Belarus runners-up Schakhstyor finished six points behind perennial champions BATE Borisov in 2010 but will take their place in this year’s CIS Cup. Have competed in this tournament on one occasion in 2006 but failed to reach the knockout rounds.
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG: The host city will see local team Zenit represent Russia having won their second Russian Premier League title last year. Zenit reached the quarter-finals in their only appearance thus far in 2008 but were surprisingly knocked out by FBK Kaunas. Heavily fancied to go all the way this time.
GROUP D: (Dynamo Kyiv; FK Ekranas; HJK Helsinki; Russia U-21)
DYNAMO KYIV: Dynamo finished second in the 2009-10 Ukrainian Premier League last season finishing six points behind Shakhtar Donetsk who have refused to send a team to this tournament in 2011. Dynamo have won this trophy four times (1996, 97, 98, 2002), more than any other club, and will be strong contenders for a fifth crown.
FK EKRANAS: Lithuania’s A-Lyga champions for the sixth time following their seven point triumph over FK Sūduva in 2010. FK Ekranas reached the semi-finals in the inaugural competition in 1993 and repeated the feat last year but have yet to go one step further.
HJK HELSINKI: Finland’s Veikkausliiga champions have been invited to this tournament for the last three years and this will be a second consecutive appearance for HJK. Having won the 2010 Finnish championship by a four point margin the Helsinki club will want to better last year’s CIS Cup appearance where they lost in the last eight stage to Rubin Kazan.
RUSSIA U-21: The Russian Under-21 side is invited to take part only in the group stage of the competition. Should they finish in the top two places in Group D then the next best teams will go through to the quarter-finals.
The League Cup sometimes gets a bad press but, if anything, it can usually provide more shocks and more thrilling football than its more glamourous counterpart. This is certainly the case in the English version which has been won by Manchester United in each of the last two seasons. The competition is also taken seriously in Scotland despite the winners not being rewarded with a European place but it still gives a chance for smaller teams to win something ahead of the Old Firm. The French Coupe de la Ligue is now in its 17th season and is a tournament that rivals the Coupe de France for intrigue and occasion. All three tournaments have reached the third round stage and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the action.
Manchester United are hoping to win this tournament for a third consecutive time, a feat which hasn’t been done since Liverpool completed a four in a row from 1981-84. They, along with all of the English teams involved in European competition, enter the competition at the third round stage and for the Red Devils it’s expected to be a procession through to the next round with a game away at Championship (2nd tier) side Scunthorpe United. The tie of the round, without any doubt, is the North London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC with Gunners coach Arsène Wenger expected to play a youthful team whilst Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has a bigger squad to choose from. Including the Spurs v Arsenal game there are six all-Premier League ties in this round including Newcastle United’s visit to Premier League champions Chelsea FC, Aston Villa meet Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City playing away at West Bromwich Albion whilst. In the “potential banana skin” stakes the biggest upset would c0me at Anfield if record seven time holders Liverpool FC were to be knocked out by League Two (4th tier) outfit Northampton Town. Here is the full third round draw below:
ENGLISH LEAGUE CUP 3RD ROUND DRAW
Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers
Birmingham City v Milton Keynes Dons
Brentford v Everton FC
Burnley v Bolton Wanderers
Chelsea FC v Newcastle United
Liverpool FC v Northampton Town
Millwall v Ipswich Town
Peterborough United v Swansea City
Portsmouth v Leicester City
Scunthorpe United v Manchester United
Stoke City v Fulham FC
Sunderland v West Ham United
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal FC
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City
Wigan Athletic v Preston North End
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Notts County
Glasgow Rangers extended their record in this competition to 26 title wins in 2009-10 with a last-gasp 84th minute winner from Kenny Miller to give the Gers a 1-0 win over St Mirren. The cup holders are expected to go through to the next stage having got a home tie against Dunfermline Athletic whilst for Old Firm rivals Glasgow Celtic it’s the potential reliving of a nightmare in their home tie against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A Scottish Cup match involving the same two sides in the 1999-2000 season saw the now famous newspaper headline “Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious” after the Hoops lost 3-1 at home to Caley which ended up being the last game in John Barnes’ short reign at the club. Another top tie in this round is the repeat of last season’s Scottish Cup final between Ross County and Dundee United (click on the Away Days section to read Stoppage Time’s report from that match) in which the home side from the tiny village of Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands will hope to gain revenge on the Arabs for ruining their cup dreams at the end of last season. Here is the draw in full:
SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP 3RD ROUND DRAW
Aberdeen FC v Raith Rovers
Brechin FC v Motherwell FC
Falkirk v Heart of Midlothian
Glasgow Celtic v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Glasgow Rangers v Dunfermline Athletic
Kilmarnock v Hibernian FC
Ross County v Dundee United
St Johnstone v Queen of the South
Unlike in England and Scotland the French League Cup doesn’t include those teams that have qualified for European competition until the fourth round stage but that shouldn’t detract from what is still an interesting draw. Girondins de Bordeaux, last season’s losing finalists and joint record title holders having won it three times, enter the competition at this stage with a tricky tie away at AS Nancy who will hope to repeat their 2006 triumph in this tournament. Current league leaders Saint-Étienne have never won this competition and will hope to go one step closer to a maiden triumph against the team who lost to AS Nancy in the 2006 final, namely OGC Nice. AS Monaco, winners in 2003, have a home tie against two-time winners RC Lens whilst the fixture with the most potential for an upset involves Nîmes Olympique, 15th in Ligue 2, taking on Valenciennes who, although lie in 14th in Ligue 1, are just a mere six points behind league leaders Saint-Étienne. Here is the full draw:
COUPE DE LA LIGUE 3RD ROUND DRAW
AC Ajaccio v Le Havre
Arles-Avignon v Caen
Boulogne v Toulouse
En Avant de Guingamp v Stade Rennais
Lorient v Stade Brestois
AS Monaco v RC Lens
AS Nancy v Girondins de Bordeaux
Nîmes Olympique v Valenciennes
Saint-Étienne v OGC Nice
Sochaux-Montbéliard v SC Bastia