by Aleks V | @aleksvee
|Photo: NaGy_Art on Twitter|
Lokomotiv Moscow came back from a goal down and scored two extra time goals against Kuban Krasnodar at the Central Stadium in Astrakhan to win their first silverware since 2007. 19-year-old Aleksei Miranchuk, a Lokomotiv youth product, sealed the deal for the Railroaders with the third and final goal on the 111th minute. FC Kuban, who played their first domestic Cup final in their 87-year history, dominated the first half, creating chances on set pieces and counterattacks. Both teams weren't keen on taking risks, and any initiative by the Railroaders only played into Kuban's hands. It didn't help that the midfield battle was full of infractions, Aleksandr Samedov and Alan Kasaev being the target of many of them. Kuban almost went ahead when they netted in an early goal, but the referee called a foul in the box. Vladislav Ignatiev, who was the most active for Kuban, saw the fruits of his labor on the 28th minute. A poor play by Vitali Denisov saw Ignatiev get on the end of a cross and put his team in the lead.
Although neither manager made changes at half-time, Igor Cherevchenko made sure the back line, especially the center, was solid and confident. Kuban seemed to retain their dominance, with Ignatiev pushing for a brace and Almeida netting in a goal from offside. It took almost an hour into the game for Lokomotiv to take the initiative, but when they did, there was no turning back. Oumar Niasse, who came on for a barely visible Roman Pavlyuchenko, sent the ball past Aleksandr Belenov after a cross from Moubarak Boussoufa. Kuban's key substitution of Ibra for Almeida didn't have the same effect, although Kuchuk's men stormed the opponent's area more often. A slew of missed opportunities from Kuban's set pieces saw a third consecutive Russian Cup final go to extra time.
The first 15-minute half was a sequel for Ibra, who still couldn't finish or get on the end of his teammates' passes, and a surprise from Lokomotiv. Ignatiev conceded a free kick that Kasaev then put in the box, and Boussoufa put in the net. Miranchuk, who came on for Fernandes on the 71st minute, ended Kuban's hopes of bringing the game to a penalty shootout. Cherevchenko's wisely chosen substitutions made the difference and gave Lokomotiv their 8th domestic Cup, their 6th in the modern era, and the first for club president Olga Smorodskaya.
For both teams, placed 7th and 10th in the Russian Premier League, winning the Cup was about more than just lifting the trophy over their heads to the sounds of "We Are the Champions". It was the only chance they had for a spot in next season's UEFA Europa League. Kuban manager Leonid Kuchuk, whose exit from Lokomotiv was laden with controversy, showed great sportsmanship by congratulating his former players. Interim manager and former Lokomotiv player Cherevchenko became the first person to win the Russian Cup as both a player and a manager. Despite Miodrag Bozovic's resignation shortly before the final, Cherevchenko kept the team's spirits alive. How he managed to do that, however, will remain a secret. "If I tell you now, everyone will start winning," he joked.
The teams will play each other again in the Premier League in four days' time, but the game won't carry the character of a rematch. Both are ending the season with a run of poor results and a more than likely change in coaching staff. Few teams can stand the test of change, but the Railroaders will look at the Cup and their ticket to Europe as proof of their resilience. For Miranchuk's team, "the most important victories are still ahead."
2014/15 Russian Cup Final
Lokomotiv Moscow 3-1 Kuban Krasnodar (aet)
Central Stadium, Astrakhan
Referee: Vladislav Bezborodov
Goals: 0-1 Ignatiev (28), 1-1 Niasse (73), 2-1 Boussoufa (104), 3-1 Al. Miranchuk (111)
Cautions: Tkachev (30), Rabiu (33), Guilherme (34), Pejcinovic (45), Sunjic (72), Samedov (82), Boussoufa (87), Corluka (90+1), Ignatiev (103)
Lokomotiv: Guilherme; Denisov, Pejcinovic, Corluka, Logashov, Shishkin, Fernandes (Al. Miranchuk, 71), Kasaev, Samedov, Boussoufa, Pavlyuchenko (Niasse, 64)
Kuban: Belenov; Armas, Rabiu, Kabore, Sunjic, Almeida (Ibra Balde, 69), Sosnin, Ignatiev, Bugaev, Popov, Tkachev (Bucur, 80)