|Photo: Official site of FC "Anji"|
Set Pieces Give Hiddink's 10-Man Team the EdgeRostov vs. Anzhi: 2-2
A group of a capella singers performed Russia's national anthem at Olimp - 2 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia to open the match between FC Rostov and FC Anzhi Makhachkala. Despite the steaming hot weather, neither team disappointed their fans. Hiddink's Anzhi was more dominant at the start of the first half, but the game evened out pretty quickly as both teams lacked the sharpness necessary to get shots on goal. On the 18th minute, referee Alexey Eskov gave an unfair yellow to Rostov's Kornel Salata. A minute later, Anzhi's Traore made a run, but his shot went wide of the upper left corner of the net thanks to Croatian goalkeeper Pletikosa. The latter was very attentive on Anzhi's set pieces and cannot be blamed for the two goals he conceded, one of which was a penalty kick. Traore bombarded the net twice on the 30th minute. The first time his shot was blocked by Sheshukov. Pletikosa was quick to react on the second. Rostov countered immediately, and Anzhi's Jucilei got his second yellow for apprehending the attack. Surprisingly, it was easy to forget that Anzhi was down to 10 men. Their game certainly did not reflect that, as their initiative stayed the same and even increased in the second half. Anzhi had a few more corners before half-time. Goalkeeper Gabulov did not get tested often. The refereeing was at times subpar - there was a false offside call against Rostov, as well as a corner that wasn't given. Anzhi had their share of bad luck as well, as Traore's injury forced Hiddink to sub in Yuriy Zhirkov right before half-time. Anzhi's best moments had come from Traore, so this was a great loss to the 10-man team.
Rostov began the second half and must have impressed Guus Hiddink, who got up to move a camera blocking his view. Anzhi opened the score on the 49th minute. A free kick delivered by Tagirbekov made it right into the net, and Pletikosa simply couldn't reach it. Captain Samuel Eto'o must have taken over for Traore - he had an amazing moment for his team that led to 2 corners. Hiddink was definitely more animated after his team got ahead. Another Anzhi corner was cleared away and became a throw-in for Rostov. Adamov's attempt was saved by Gabulov. Miodrag Bozovic made a vital substitution for Rostov on the 61st minute, having playmaker Kirichenko come on for Gatcan. It appears that Bozovic had taken on some of the psychic abilities Hiddink is so well-known for. The former Dynamo coach anticipated Zhirkov's booking for a handball in the box. A penalty was awarded, and Rostov's number 10, Kirichenko, scored the equalizer. Gabulov guessed where the shot would go, but couldn't reach the ball. The veteran player who had had a previous spell at Rostov when he was just 21 years old, Kirichenko is also known for having had a record of 22 consecutive penalty goals as well as for having scored the fastest goal at a European Championship when Russia played Greece in Euro 2004. Another veteran player who shone on the pitch today was none other than former Anzhi player Benoit Angbwa, who marked Eto'o. A controversial booking soon put yet another dampener on things - Sheshukov got a yellow for a supposed foul on Eto'o. An injury acquired last week forced Kirichenko to leave the pitch to Jan Holenda. Once again, the powers normally reserved for Hiddink were being toyed with. A former Anzhi player, Holenda scored a header for Rostov after a cross from Kalachev by positioning himself between Samba and another defender. Despite Rostov's lead, Anzhi kept up the attack and created a dramatic finish. Tagirbekov, who scored the first goal for Anzhi, got his double today in the last seconds of the match. Samba's free kick delivery and a head pass gave Tagirbekov the opportunity for a header. The match was undoubtedly one of the most interesting games of the start of the RPL season and set the stage for two powerful managers and teams to continue to go head-to-head and battle for the top spots in the league.
"It was a good, interesting match that must have been enjoyable to watch for fans of both teams," said Hiddink in a post-match interview. "We started off good and should have scored twice in the first twenty minutes. Then Jucilei got two yellow cards in moments that I would like to see again on video. Nevertheless, we were able to rebuild. But in the end the pressure by Rostov took its toll, although I think that the officials should differentiate when a hand finds a ball and and when the ball finds a hand. I'm proud that my team did not give up when they were conceding and was able to save the game. As for Traore, he had a hamstring injury. It's a huge loss - especially in light of the dense calendar that is ahead of us."