Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Eastern Europe’s best get ready for CIS Cup

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 15, 2010
Sheriff Tiraspol

Moldovan champions FC Sheriff parade the cup in 2009. However they won't be there to defend the title this time.

The Commonwealth of Independent States Cup takes place in Moscow for the next ten days as the best teams from the former Soviet bloc and the Baltic States compete for this pre-season tournament. It is sad that, in recent years, most teams choose to enter a reserve side, especially the Russian and Ukrainian champion sides who, since 2006, had preferred to play in the Channel One Cup held in Israel. But the tournament is still good preparation for Eastern European teams to get the most out of their squads with a guaranteed three games for each team in the group stage. Here is a brief guide to all of the clubs that have entered the 2010 tournament:

GROUP A: Rubin Kazan (Russia)

Rubin were promoted to the Russian top flight only seven years ago and have created a back-to-back championship winning side that won their maiden title in 2008 during the club’s 50th anniversary. They won the 2009 Russian League by eight points from record champions Spartak Moscow who, with six victories, are the record holders of the CIS Cup too. Their maiden appearance in the CIS Cup in 2009 ended at the group stage.

Dnepr Mogilev (Belarus)

Dnepr finished in the third place in the Belarussian League in 2009 trailing champions BATE Borisov by a whopping 22 points and runner-up Dinamo Minsk by ten points. They have one national championship to their name when they won in the 1998 season which allowed them to participate in the 1999 CIS Cup in which they finished third in the group stage and fail to qualify for the knock out stage. Representing Belarus as neither BATE nor Dinamo Minsk chose to enter.

FC Dordoi-Dynamo Naryn (Kyrgyzstan)

FC Dordoi have dominated the league in Kyrgyzstan in the last six seasons winning every year since 2004. They won the national championship in 2009 only after having to play against FC Abdish-Ata in a play off match, which finished 3-2, after the two teams were equal on points after the championship group which followed the regular season. FC Dordoi have never progressed beyond the group stage in the CIS Cup.

Liepājas Metalurgs (Latvia)

Metalurgs finally clinched their second Latvian Virsliga title in 2009 after they got the draw they needed on the penultimate matchday against title rivals FK Ventspils (CIS Cup finalist in 2007). Their first championship triumph in 2005 was the first time that a team other than Skonto Riga (three times runners-up in the CIS Cup in 2001, 03 and 04) were crowned champions in post-independence Latvia. In their only CIS Cup appearance in 2006 Metalurgs reached the quarter-finals before they were knocked out by Russian champions CSKA Moscow.

GROUP B: FK Baku (Azerbaijan)

FK Baku won their second Azerbaijani championship title in 2008-09 after they beat local rivals Inter Baku by a solitary point. In their solo appearance in the CIS Cup in 2007 they were defeated at the quarter-final stage by CSKA Moscow who went through 3-2 on penalties following a goalless stalemate.

HJK Helsinki (Finland)

The champions of Finland’s Veikkausliiga are competing in the CIS Cup for the first time this year. They won their 22nd championship in 2009 by finishing three points ahead of nearest challengers Honka Espoo. This was their first championship win since 2003.

FC Aktobe (Kazakhstan)

Kazakh champions four times in the last five years, FC Aktobe won the 2009 title finishing five points ahead of second place Lokomotiv. In the 2009 CIS Cup, FC Aktobe reached the final where they faced off against Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol. After a 1-1 draw in regular time the game went to penalties where FC Sheriff won 5-4 to claim the cup (pictured).

FC Vakhsh (Tajikstan)

Tajik champions for the third time in their history in 2009 having beaten FC Regar-TedAZ to the title by five points. Have never progressed beyond the group stage in two previous attempts in the CIS Cup.

GROUP C: Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)

Dynamo are an institution in Ukraine. They were the most successful side during the Soviet era with thirteen championships and equalled that number in the 2008-09 Ukrainian championship having beaten old foes Shakhtar Donetsk to the title by thirteen points. Dynamo have also been successful in the CIS Cup having won the competition on four occasions in 1996, 97, 98 and 2002.

HTTU Aşgabat (Turkmenistan)

Three times champions of Turkmenistan with triumphs in the 2005, 06 and 09 seasons. They beat FC Nebitçi in the 2009 championship by a mere two points to qualify for this year’s CIS Cup. HTTU have never qualified for the knockout stages in their previous CIS Cup attempts.

FC Levadia Tallinn (Estonia)

The dominant force in Estonian football having won the last four championships and seven in total. They eased to the 2009 Meistriliiga title by finishing a clear 19 points ahead of nearest challengers Trans Narva and JK Sillamäe Kalev. Despite their regular appearances in recent years FC Levadia have not progressed beyond the group stage.

Russia U-21 (Russia)

The Russian Under-21 side is invited “hors concours” to the tournament which means they are allowed to play three matches during the group stage but their results don’t count towards the final table and they’re not allowed to progress in to the knock out stages.

GROUP D: FC Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan)

A new force in Uzbek football having won the last two domestic championships. They won the 2009 edition under the stewardship of coach Luis Felipe Scolari as they easily saw off all competition finishing 22 points ahead of nearest challengers FC Pakhtakor Tashkent (who finished runner-up to FC Khazar Lenkoran in the 2008 CIS Cup final). FC Bunyodkor did not participate in the 2009 CIS Cup and have sent a reserve team to the 2010 edition opting to prepare their first team for the upcoming AFC Champions League.

FC Pyunik Yerevan (Armenia)

Twelve times winners of Armenia including the last nine championships, FC Pyunik are without doubt the dominant force of modern Armenian football. They won the 2009 title by seven points from FC Mika. The best performance of FC Pyunik in the CIS Cup was in 2006 where they were defeated by PFC Neftchi Baku in the semi-finals.

FK Ekranas (Lithuania)

Five times champions of Lithuania, FK Ekranas finished six points ahead of FK Vetra Vilnius in the 2009 A Lyga to qualify for this year’s CIS Cup. Their best performance in this tournament came in last year’s edition having reached the quarter-final stage only to be knocked-out on penalties by FC Pakhtakor.

FC Dacia Chişinău (Moldova)

Present CIS Cup champions FC Sheriff Tiraspol refused to enter this year’s tournament so Moldova will be represented by 2009 championship runners-up FC Dacia who finished 15 points behind FC Sheriff. This is FC Dacia’s first participation in the CIS Cup.

UEFA Europa League groups Round-Up: Part Two

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 19, 2009
BATE Borisov fans

Fans of BATE Borisov taunt their opponents Everton on Matchday 2. Everton, however, had the last laugh winning 2-1.

In the second half of our UEFA Europa League group stage round-up “Stoppage Time” looks at the groups that concluded on Thursday, December 17th:

GROUP A (RSC ANDERLECHT, AJAX AMSTERDAM, DINAMO ZAGREB, FC TIMISOARA)

Blessed with years of European experience and tradition, Benelux neighbours Ajax Amsterdam and RSC Anderlecht of Brussels easily negotiated their way through this group. Their Matchday 6 match in Amsterdam still had some importance, though, as Anderlecht’s 3-1 win meant that they topped the group on account of a better head-to-head record over their Dutch challengers, both teams finishing on eleven points. Dinamo Zagreb were optimistic of further progress earlier in the competition as they had three points from two matches but they failed to build on their good start. Champions League Play-Off losers FC Timisoara scored a respectable five points on their maiden Europa League campaign but still finished fourth in the group table.

GROUP B (VALENCIA CF, LILLE, GENOA FC, SLAVIA PRAGUE)

Valencia secured qualification and the top spot on Matchday 6. They went into their game away at Genoa needing only a point to be certain of going through to the last 32 whilst hosts Genoa needed all three points to finish at least second. With the game tied at 1-1 in stoppage time, David Villa was gifted the ball from Genoa goalkeeper Alessio Scarpi to secure the victory in the 94th mnute. Elsewhere Lille’s 3-1 win at home to Slavia Prague ensured that they finished second, two points behind the leaders. Slavia, who have dominated the Czech league in the last two seasons, have been struggling domestically this season and this form was transferred into Europe as they remained without a victory after six games.

GROUP C (HAPOEL TEL AVIV, HAMBURGER SV, GLASGOW CELTIC, RAPID VIENNA)

Israeli side Hapoel were the surprise winners of this group finishing two points ahead of German giants Hamburg. Their Matchday 6 encounter in Tel Aviv ended as a 1-0 win for the hosts and it was they who leapfrogged “HSV” into first place. The biggest disappointment of the group were Scottish club Celtic who were unable to re-create their many great European nights under new coach Tony Mowbray. Among the highlights of the group were the encounters involving Celtic and Austrians Rapid Vienna, whose little known rivalry dates back to a controversial European Cup Winners’ Cup second round match in 1984-85. Both games ended drawn but the Matchday 6 encounter would’ve felt like a win for the Glasgow giants as they came back from 3-0 down after 18 minutes to draw 3-3 with virtually the last kick of the game and demote their Austrian hosts to last place.

GROUP G (RED BULL SALZBURG, VILLARREAL CF, SS LAZIO, LEVSKI SOFIA)

The only team who finished their campaign with a 100% record was Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg suggesting that they could be a good outside bet to go far in the competition. Huub Stevens’ men beat all challengers home and away to finish a clear nine points ahead of second place Villarreal. Italian capital side Lazio frustrated their followers as they could only win two of their six games and finished three points behind the little Spanish village team. Bulgarians Levski Sofia fared little better than their local rivals CSKA (see previous blog) finishing bottom with three points.

GROUP H (FENERBAHCE, FC TWENTE ENSCHEDE, STEAUA BUCHAREST, FC SHERIFF TIRASPOL)

Steve McClaren’s FC Twente were looking comfortable after two games but then nearly blew their qualifications chances. After Turkish side Fenerbahce secured the leadership of the group, FC Twente were relying on them to do them a favour on Matchday 6. Twente needed a win away at 1986 European champions Steaua Bucharest but could only manage a 1-1 draw in very cold, frosty conditions played in front of a sparse crowd. However the surprise team FC Sheriff from Moldova had to win against the already-qualified “Fener” to grab the second spot but the Turkish team did McClaren’s a favour beating the Moldovans 1-0.

GROUP I (SL BENFICA, EVERTON FC, BATE BORISOV, AEK ATHENS)

No surprises in group I were Benfica and Everton went through to the Round of 32 with one match to spare. Benfica, in particular, showed their class in their two matches with nearest challengers Everton scoring seven goals without reply in their two games (5-0 at home and 2-0 away). The Merseysiders, however, did progress thanks to three wins out of four against their eastern European opponents, the only defeat coming on Matchday 6 at home to Belarussian champions BATE Borisov but Everton were already through to the next round and played a very young team on the night. Benfica finished top with 15 points (only a shock defeat away at a very poor AEK Athens denied them a 100% record), Everton scored nine points, BATE avoided the wooden spoon scoring seven points compared to AEK’s four points.