Dan Petrescu FC Dynamo Moscow

When Pre-Season Lingers

4:44 PMAleks Vee

It's always easy to underestimate matches between the teams that make up the lower half of the Premier League table. However it's important to remember that these teams usually have much more at stake than the "favorites", even if it is just the start of the season. Rostov had 6 points after 7 games, and Dynamo trailed behind with 3. Both teams faced changes to their starting line-ups. Dynamo's Yusupov was disqualified, and Kokorin's injury during the Russia vs. Israel game prevented him from playing alongside fellow forward Kuranyi, already limiting the team's ability to create chances. Goalkeeper Berezovsky started instead of the injured Shunin, a welcome change to the Dynamo line-up that'll hopefully remain. Newly acquired Austrian star Jakob Jantscher started the game on the bench.

Rostov had a couple of significant changes, as well. The team, managed by former Dynamo coach Miodrag Bozovic, recently signed English winger David Bentley on loan from Spurs. Bentley started his career at Arsenal, where he played only one game and spent the rest of his time on loan to Norwich and Blackburn. Another recent acquisition is French winger Florent Sinama Pongolle, who transferred from Portugal's Sporting. Like Bentley, Sinama began his career in the EPL, playing for Liverpool. Both players were on loan to Blackburn in 2006.

The first half saw little action from both teams, though Rostov did make use of their home field advantage. Dynamo had a few early attempts, but spent most of the time defending. Rostov put on the pressure for quite awhile, forcing the guest team to sit back on their side of the pitch. Jan Holenda was active early on, running toward the goal before Berezovsky picked up the ball from under his feet. Noboa wasted an opportunity for his team by lingering with the ball instead of taking a shot - in the end, Kuranyi couldn't get it in, and Benoit Angbwa cleared it out. Rostov's newbie Bentley was consistently active on the right flank, cut short only by Vladimir Granat. The guest team was unable to find any space to create a meaningful chance. Dynamo didn't test Croatia NT goalkeeper Pletikosa until much later in the game. To be fair, the home team wasn't doing much either. There were moments when Dynamo swayed possession in their favor. Yet the home team did test Berezovsky twice, while Dynamo had some sloppy shots and sometimes passes to Pletikosa. Berezovsky blocked Kalachev's shot after Dynamo defenders let the ball go in a dangerous area. Luckily for Dynamo, Rostov had trouble finishing their attacks, despite David Bentley's prowess. Balazs Dzsudzsak, who had a very early effort on the first minute, attempted to get the ball in from afar, but to no avail. All the while, Dynamo's fans kept up singing for their team. 

The half-time interview with Vladimir Rykov.
The first half culminated in Dynamo's possession and the negation of Rostov's counters. Both teams fought for possession, causing quite a few fouls, but neither were heavy on attempts or even set pieces. Many of Dynamo's attacks resulted in crosses to Kuranyi, who's usually known for finding those pockets of space on the pitch to get in on the action. The German footballer's goalless streak can only be explained by the lack of action on the flanks; there's simply no one to distribute the ball to him. He was marked incredibly well by the Rostov defense, preventing him from getting on the end of deliveries or taking an accurate enough shot. Bozovic was clearly ticked off by his team's lack of action; despite Rostov's territorial advantage and Bentley's setting up of the attacks on the flanks, the team hadn't done much more than Dynamo, besides see a bit more of the ball and test the keeper. Dynamo defender Rykov, who was not named to the squad for today's game, didn't think the team needed to make any changes to its defense.
Dan Petrescu subbing in Otman Bakkal.
Rostov's free kick master David Bentley clearly stood out among his teammates when he went up to deliver the ball. His shot looked like it was going in, but somehow ricochetted out onto the pitch. There was a ray of hope at the start of the second half for the guests when they managed to gain possession and even create some chances, lingering on the opposition's side for awhile. Dzsudzsak's attempt was cleared out for a corner, leading to a Rostov counter and ultimately another free kick by Bentley. The Spurs winger failed to score again - Berezovsky positioned himself at the perfect spot to clear the ball out. Dynamo players kept looking for Kuranyi, all while clearing the ball from any Kalachev or Bentley action. The first mistake by the guests came when they gave away their initiative. Dynamo's inability to finish what they started is highly reminsicent of an MLS team that I have often compared with the Russian side, though neither team was finishing in this game. Bentley's free kick delivery led to Kornel Salata's header going over the bar; then a rather unexpected attack occurred. The guests had just finished a pretty good counter when midfielder Christian Noboa failed to keep the opposition from getting the ball to Jan Holenda. The latter is the kind of player who's difficult to mark; it's much easier to prevent someone else from making the crucial pass. None of the defense was present when an absolutely brilliant delivery by Kalachev flew right to Holenda. All that Rostov's forward had to do was head the ball in from close range, a shot that is nearly impossible to save even by the best of keepers. Jantscher debuted for Dynamo as a sub shortly after, coming in for defender Gordon Schildenfeld and shifting defensive responsibilities to Marko Lomic. Another tactical change came when Zvjezdan Misimovic came on for fellow midfielder Igor Semshov, whose attempts hadn't created any problems for Pletikosa. Dynamo kept up the resultless set pieces; Misimovic isn't exactly a David Bentley. The former got booked for taking a free kick before the referee's whistle. Holenda was ready for a rendevouz with the keeper, but a Dynamo defender was a step ahead and cleared the ball before the forward could score a double. Fortunately for the guests, Rostov's exhaustion began to show with a series of result-less set pieces. Dynamo manager Petrescu definitely amped up his team's fitness routine - they were playing well into the last minutes of the match. The guests tried a hand at a few corners. Kuranyi was still blocked by the defense, and newcomer Jantscher couldn't get ahold of the ball, giving it away to Pletikosa. Noboa missed a wide open net and shot the ball at the side netting before being subbed out for Otman Bakkal. In the four minutes of added time, it was a pity that Dynamo was unable to tie the game. Pletikosa blocked Misimovic's bicycle kick, while Bakkal's shot was cleared by Rostov's defenders. 

Rostov's Bozovic led his team to a 1-0 win on the day of the City Festival at Rostov-on-Don, giving the fans another reason to celebrate. Bozovic said in a post match interview that the new players' advancement in the team will depend on their individual qualities, and that the newcomers'  competition will play a positive role in his team.

Rostov won their second match this season, moving to 10th place in the Premier Leauge table, while Dynamo remains at the bottom with 3 points after 8 games. Dynamo's recent tie in a friendly against Lokomotiv didn't translate into a tie or a win in today's game. The irony, of course, was that Rostov's only goal was not scored from a Bentley free kick, or from a set piece at all. The game was heavy on counters from either side, and should really have ended in a tie. The match was an even one; in such cases, it's enough for the slightest defensive mishap to shift the score to either side. One can't really point the finger of shame at a single player for a team's loss, but if one player had to be removed from the starting line-up for the next game against Amkar, it would have to be Christian Noboa. He's probably the least emotionally-stable of the Dynamo squad at the moment, and it was his flop that aided Rostov in scoring their only goal. 
Dynamo fans didn't enjoy today's game.
To take a detour from comparing Petrescu's team to that of Jay Heaps, it seems like Dynamo is having an LA Galaxy moment, starting the season in pre-season mode. The positive side of that fact is that if Dynamo starts to play like LA, their chances of getting into the top 4 are much higher than anyone thinks. There's more, though: Dynamo's fitness has improved tremenduously. Petrescu pointed out in a post-match interview that his players were more disciplined overall, but that the break for National Team duty took its toll on the team. When asked about the opposition playing with two forwards up front, Petrescu only smiled and said he'd like to play that way, if he was able to (Dynamo's financial abilities aren't on par with some of the other teams). Yet that last question got a smile out of him. Hopefully his positive attitude will transfer to the players.

Russian Premier League - 8th matchday
Sunday, September 16, 2012, 12:00PM EST

FC Rostov vs. FC Dynamo Moscow - 1:0 (0:0) 
Referee: Vladislav Bezborodov (St. Petersburg)
Arena: Olimp-2 (Rostov-on-Don)
1:0 Jan Holenda (Asst. Timofei Kalachev) ('62) 

HT stats:
7(3):5(0) shots (on goal)
1:2 corners
1 yellow card (Rostov)

FT stats
14(6):13(1) shots (on goal)
2:6 corners
18:18 fouls 
2:2 yellow cards 

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