Teams: dinamo kyiv,benfica,and russian sport
Rubin bring up half-century with title triumph
FC Rubin Kazan celebrated their 50th anniversary in style on Sunday by winning a first Russian Premier-Liga title.
"It has been a long road to this success," said Kurban Berdyev, their coach of the last seven years, after Savo Milošević's last-gasp goal secured the deciding 2-1 victory at FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast. It lifted Rubin ten points clear of second-placed PFC CSKA Moskva with three games to play – a huge achievement for a team who made their top-flight debut in 2003 and had not previously improved on their third position that year.
Tenth in 2007, just three points off the relegation zone, Rubin were not among the favourites during the close season, with their sole big signing being 32-year-old attacking midfielder Sergei Semak. Yet as the deadline approached, Rubin added experience via the likes Milošević and Sergiy Rebrov, plus Turkey playmaker Gökdeniz Karadeniz, and with a reported €40m budget provided by leading Tatarstan-based firms, suddenly the Kazan side were contenders.
Season of three phases
Seven matches into the campaign they had yet to drop a point. Trouble came with a 3-0 home loss to FC Spartak Moskva on 2 May, and when – after winning 2-1 at FC Moskva four days later – they were beaten 2-0 at FC Spartak Nalchik before registering six successive draws. However, Rubin returned to winning ways in early August with a Russian Cup defeat of FC Smena Komsomolsk, followed up by a spectacular 4-1 triumph at titleholders FC Zenit St. Petersburg. That result heralded a championship-winning run yielding 30 points from eleven games, as well as progress to the cup quarter-finals at FC Amkar Perm's expense.
Berdyev said of the summer slump. "The fact we were leading the league was a bit too much for the boys. Away to Nalchik it was clear some players started to think they were stars." However, Rubin survived the blip and not even CSKA's seven-match winning streak could block their route to the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League. Semak, captain of club and country who had also won the league with CSKA, said: "This season we have produced the most consistent football in Russia and deserved to be champions."
The spotlight is a more unusual place for Berdyev, a retiring 56-year-old who has had Rubin playing efficient football, notably from set-pieces. He knows, though, that next autumn's challenge will demand a fresh approach. "To be successful in the Champions League we need to strengthen two or three positions," said Berdyev. 'We need good centre-forwards, holding midfielders, a winger and a playmaker. I am sure some day we will cause a surprise in Europe too."
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