From Abramyan to Akinfeev – Top Eleven Goalkeepers With the Most Clean Sheets in the Soviet and Russian Top Flight

Igor_Akinfeev_CSKA_graffitti

With CSKA Moscow’s 4-0 victory at home against Tom Tomsk last Sunday, Igor Akinfeev recorded his 161st clean sheet in the Russian Football Premier League, a new record in the league and one more than the legendary Lev Yashin.

With Akinfeev’s incredible achievement, it is time to look back, and we give you the ten goalkeepers with the most clean sheets in the Russian and Soviet top flight.

10: Alyosha Abramyan (1965 – 1978: Ararat Yerevan) & Sergey Kramarenko (1964 – 1984: Neftchi Baku & Chernomorets Odessa) – 116 clean sheets

Born in Leninakan in Armenia, currently known as Gyumri, Abramyan started his career in native Shirak Gyumri, just like legendary Armenian midfielder and current national team coach Artur Petrosyan, where he got his debut in 1964 at the age of 19. Abramyan quickly impressed, and moved to Ararat in the Armenian capital Yerevan the following year.

During Abramyan’s first season with Ararat, they secured promotion to the Soviet top flight, where they stayed until the fall of the Soviet Union. In his debut season, he was picked as the league’s best debutant goalkeeper and in 1973, Ararat became the first Armenian side to win the Soviet league. Abramyan and Ararat later added two Soviet cup trophies.

Following his retirement in 1979, he became a referee, before eventually going into coaching. Since 2009 he has worked as goalkeeper coach at Ararat Yerevan. To this day, he is still remembered as one of Armenia’s finest players ever. During his career, he held 138 clean sheets in total, enough to earn him a 14th place in the Lev Yashin Club.

Sergey Kramarenko was born in Azerbaijan’s second largest city, Ganja in 1946. Despite this he played the majority of his career for Nefchi Baku, whom he represented between 1964 and 1984, only interrupted by short stints at Chernomorets Odessa in 1976 and Khazar Lenkoran in 1982. During his career, Kramarenko played a total of 312 games in the Soviet Top League, which is an Azerbaijani football record.

The height of his career came in 1966, when Neftchi finished third in the league, which earned Kramarenko, who conceded the second fewest goals after Dinamo Kyiv’s Yevhen Rudakov, the title as Master of Sports of the USSR, the second highest honor an athlete could achieve in the Soviet Union.

In 1971 he was suspended for three years for punching a referee, and he didn’t return to top football until 1973.

Each year Azerbaijani journalists and football experts give the Sergey Kramarenko Award to the best goalkeeper in the Azerbaijani league. Kramarenko died in 2008 at the age of 61.

With 133 clean sheets in total during his career, Kramarenko is ranked 16th in the Lev Yashin Club, an unofficial list over Russian and Soviet goalkeepers who achieved more than 100 clean sheets during their professional career. It was named after legendary Lev Yashin, who was the first to reach the magic 100 clean sheets.

Kramarenko’s son, Dmitry Kramarenko, also became professional, and played 33 national team games between 1992 and 2005, while he also represented notable Russian clubs such as Dinamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow.

9. Aleksandr Filimonov (1992 – 2015: Fakel Voronezh, Tekstilshchik Kamyshin, Spartak Moscow, Uralan Elista, FC Moscow, Arsenal Tula) 117 clean sheets

The story of Aleksandr Filimonov is a curious one. He began his career in the Russian Football Premier League with Fakel Voronezh after the fall of the Soviet Union at the age of 19, and he was widely regarded as one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the country. After two seasons with Fakel, he moved to Tekstilshchik in 1994 with whom he competed in the 1994 UEFA Cup and became a part of the Russian U23 national team.

He moved to Oleg Romantsev’s Spartak Moscow in 1996, where he replaced Stanislav Cherchesov, and he went on to win six Russian championships, a Russian Cup and became a part of the Russian national team. Between 1998 and 2002, he played 16 national team games.

When Romantsev was appointed national team coach in 1998, he made Filimonov his number one choice in goal, which turned out to be the beginning of the end. After an impressive qualification campaign for Euro 2000, where Sbornaya beat the reigning World champions France at the Stade de France, Russia met Ukraine in two play-off matches. Everything went as planned for Russia who were only a few minutes from qualifying at the Luzhniki Stadium when Ukraine were given a free kick far from the goal on the left side of the pitch. Andrey Shevchenko crossed the ball, but Filimonov completely misread the cross, and dropped the ball into the goal, so Ukraine qualified. Subsequently he lost his spot on the national team, and only played in four more friendlies.

He left Spartak in 2001, and represented six clubs between 2001 and 2010 when he retired, and started playing beach soccer at Lokomotiv Moscow. Filimonov turned out to be a great beach soccer player, and he was a part of the Russian team that won the 2011 World Cup, while he also won a national championship.

In 2012, at the age of 39, he returned to football, when he turned out for Arsenal Tula, for whom he played until 2015, and at the age of 41 he returned to the Russian top flight in the 2014/2015 season, where he played 17 games.

He is currently ranked 8th in the Lev Yashin club with 153 clean sheets.

8. Oleksandr Tkachenko (1967 – 1987: Zorya Luhansk, Zenit St. Petersburg) 119 clean sheets

Oleksandr Tkachenko started his as striker, but was eventually dropped back into the goal as a youngster, which turned out to be a great decision. The Kharkiv-born keeper played the majority of his career for Zorya Luhansk, with the exception of two seasons at Zenit Leningrad, the current St. Petersburg, between 1979 and 1980.

Tkachenko was one of the leaders on Zorya’s team, and he was a guy who did everything he could to win. The best example of this came in 1971, when he was 24, during a game against Zenit. As Zenit striker Vladimir Polyakov rushed towards Tkachenko and the goal, the Ukrainian keeper dived for the ball, but Polyakov had no time to stop up and hit the goalkeeper in the temple with his boot.

Tkachenko saved the ball, but was deemed clinical dead. Luckily, he was revived outside the stadium, and spent 60 days unconscious at the hospital. In 2012, Tkachenko revealed that his first reaction after he woke up was that he wanted to get back on the pitch, but first of all he had to undergo a long rehabilitation period, where he had to learn to walk and run again.

A year later, he returned to the pitch, and almost as if in a fairy tale he helped Zorya win their first and only championship  in 1972.

When he moved to Zenit in 1980, he helped the club achieve its first set of medals, as they finished third that season. He moved back to Zorya in 1981, and played there until 1987 when he retired at the age of 40.

By then, he could look back at career where he was capped three times for the Soviet national team, and he held 147 clean sheets in total. He’s currently 11th in the Lev Yashin Club.

7. Vyacheslav Malafeev (1997 – 2016: Zenit St. Petersburg) 121 clean sheets

Vyacheslav Malafeev is something rare as a one-club man. Born in Leningrad in 1979, Malafeev got his debut for local pride Zenit in 1999 after two years on the second team, and over the next 14 seasons, he was the first choice for the Blue-White-Sky Blues for whom he played 322 league games.

At Zenit, Malafeev played together with a number of local lads, who made the spine of the most successful team in the club’s history as he, together with the likes of Igor Denisov, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Andrey Arshavin and Vladimir Bystrov laid the foundation to the powerhouse we see today.

With Zenit, Malafeev went to win four championship titles, three of them as first choice, two Russian cups, and most noticeably the 2008 UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

Malafeev furthermore played 29 games for the Russian national team, and had it not been for the emergence of Igor Akinfeev at roughly the same time, and an unfortunate injury in 2004 when he became first choice, that number would most likely had been much, much higher.

Before the 2013/2014 season, Malafeev picked up an injury, which led to Yuri Lodygin receiving his debut for Zenit, and he did so well that Malafeev permanently lost his spot in the starting line-up. Despite this, Malafeev continued his career as deputy until he retired after the 2014/2015 season, where he played two games as Zenit won yet another championship.

During his career, Malafeev won 179 clean sheets, which is enough for him to be 5th in the Lev Yashin Club. Malafeev’s 328 games for Zenit in the RFPL remains record at the club.

Vyacheslav Malafeev – The Last of the Local Lads

6. Anzor Kavazashvili (1957 – 1971: Dinamo Tbilisi, Zenit St. Petersburg, Torpedo Moscow, Spartak Moscow) 129 clean sheets

Born in Batumi, the second largest city of Georgia, it was natural that Anzor Kavazashvili began his career at powerhouse Dinamo Tbilisi. However, the Georgian goalkeeper only made a handful of appearances in his homeland, before he moved to Zenit Leningrad in 1960. He spent one year in Leningrad, before he moved to the capital and Torpedo.

While Valentin Ivanov and Eduard Streltsov scored the goals, Kavazashvili recorded the best defensive record in 1965, when Torpedo won the second championship in the club’s history, and he also helped them pick up the cup in 1968.

Kavazashvili’s performances earned him a call-up to the Soviet national team in 1965, and between then and 1970 he played 29 games for the national team, 15 of those with clean sheets. He deputized for Lev Yashin at the 1966 World Cup, where they finished 4th.

In 1969 he moved to local rivals Spartak with whom he won another championship the same season, and added a cup trophy two years later before eventually retiring in 1974 after having represented lower league teams.

In 1965 and 1967, he won the Goalkeeper of the Year Award, and in 2000 he was awarded the Russian Order of Honour for high achievements in sport.

Kavazashvili later went into coaching, and he coached the national teams of both Chad and Guinea.

He is currently 7th in the Lev Yashin Club with 163 clean sheets in total.

5. Sergey Ovchinnikov (1991 – 2006: Lokomotiv Moscow, Dinamo Moscow) 136 clean sheets

Despite playing for Dinamo Moscow as a youth player, Sergey Ovchinnikov received his debut in the RFPL for Lokomotiv Moscow in the 1991 season. In 1992, legendary head coach Yuri Semin made him his first choice between the posts, and the following year, he earned his debut for the Russian national team, whom he represented 35 times between his debut and 2005.

Ovchinnikov could have earned more clean sheets in the RFPL, but in 1997 he moved to Benfica, and afterwards he played for Alverca and Porto, before eventually returning to Lokomotiv in 2002.

Ovchinnikov was the last spice Lokomotiv needed to win the league, having finished third once and second three times in the years he was away, and in 2002 the club won its first ever championship. Two years later they added another championship. The two championships were nice additions to Ovchinnikov’s trophy cabinet, which already had two Russian cups, two Portuguese cups, and four Russian Goalkeeper of the Year awards.

In 2005, Semin lured Ovchinnikov to Dinamo Moscow, where he was handed the captain’s armband.

He played his last game in July 2006 when Dinamo welcomed FC Moscow to Eduard Streltsov Stadium, and Ovchinnikov was sent off after a heated argument with the referee, whom the goalkeeper both grabbed and pushed. He was eventually suspended for the rest of the season, and Semin was sacked soon after.

Ovchinnikov is currently a part of the coaching staff at CSKA Moscow.

During his career he recorded 166 clean sheets, and he is 6th in the Lev Yashin Club.

4. Yevhen Rudakov (1963 – 1977: Dinamo Kyiv) 143 clean sheets

Yevhen Rudakov grew up in Moscow, and played for Torpedo at youth level, but he played his entire career for Dinamo Kyiv for whom he became a legend. In 1971, he was the first foreigner to win the Best Ukrainian Player of the Year award, proving just how great he was.

Rudakov played for Dinamo during the club’s golden era in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and during his 15 years at the club, he won six Soviet championships as well as four cup trophies.

Furthermore, he helped the club become the first Soviet club to win a European club trophy, as Dinamo secured the 1975 UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and later won the UEFA Super Cup after a 3-0 demolition of Bayern Munich on aggregate.

He played 42 games for the Soviet national team, and he guarded the goal at Euro 1972, where the USSR finished second after West Germany. Together with teammates Murtaz Khurtsilava and Revaz Dzodzuashvili, Rudakov made the Team of the Tournament, and later that year he was nominated for the Balon d’Or for the second time in his career.

Following his retirement in 1977, he coached at Dinamo’s youth academy. In 2004, he was awarded the Ukrainian Order of Merit of the Third Degree, given for outstanding achievements in sports.

Rudakov is third in the Lev Yashin Club with 206 clean sheets. He died in  2011 at the age of 69.

3. Rinat Dasaev (1978 – 1988: Spartak Moscow) 147 clean sheets

Known as The Cat, Rinat Dasaev remains one of the biggest legends in Russian football and one of the best goalkeepers to ever play the beautiful game.

After playing two seasons for local side Volgar Astrakhan, where he played as a striker as child, between 1976 and 1977, Dasaev moved to Moscow in 1978 in what is remembered as one of Spartak Moscow’s best moves ever.

During his time with Spartak, Dasaev won two Soviet championships and became runner-up five times, as the Red-Whites fought fiercely with Oleg Blokhin’s Dinamo Kyiv. During these years, he was also the first choice between the posts on the Soviet national team, where he was one of few Spartak players favoured by Valery Lobanovsky.

Dasaev won the Soviet Football Player of the Year award in 1982, the Soviet Goalkeeper of the Year award five times, and the World’s Best Goalkeeper Award in 1988, the same year he helped the Soviet Union reach the final of the European Championships, which was unfortunately lost to the Netherlands.

In 1988, Dasaev moved to Sevilla, where he played for three years before retiring in 1991. Dasaev’s stint in Spain never reached the highs expected as he had problems off the pitch.

Rinat Dasaev’s dark days at the Nervión

Dasaev is currently goalkeeper coach for Spartak’s second team, and has earlier been assistant coach on the Russian national team. Furthermore, he helped Russia’s bid for the 2018 World Cup win.

During his career, Dasaev recorded 229 clean sheets, and he ranks second in the Lev Yashin Club.

2. Lev Yashin (1950 – 1971: Dinamo Moscow) 160 clean sheets

Known as the greatest goalkeeper to ever play the beautiful game, it is almost impossible to describe what Lev Yashin meant to football.

He grew up in Moscow, and spent his entire career playing for Dinamo Moscow, with whom he won five championships and three cups.

Yashin was furthermore a talented ice-hockey player, and when his career hit a rough patch in 1953, he began playing for Dinamo’s hockey team, which he helped win the championship the same year. Eventually however, he returned to football, and from 1954, he never looked back. The same year he made his debut for the national team, and he remained the first choice until 1967, when he played 74 games.

He was the first Soviet goalkeeper to ever reach 100 clean sheets, and it was therefore natural to name the club after him when it was founded in 1980.

With the national team, Yashin won the 1956 Olympics and the 1960 Euros, while also finishing runner-up at the Euro 1964 and 4th at the 1966 World Cup.

In 1967, he was awarded the Order of Lenin, the highest decoration bestowed in the Soviet Union and in 1988 FIFA awarded him their Order of Merit, the highest honour awarded by the association.

Lev Yashin remains the only goalkeeper to ever win the Balon d’Or award, which he won in 1963, the same year he won his last championship with Dinamo.

Yashin died in 1990 at the age of 60. During his career, he recorded 203 clean sheets, which grants him 4th place in the club named after himself.

Lev Yashin: The Black Panther Who Changed the Goalkeeper Position

1. Igor Akinfeev (2002 – : CSKA Moscow) 161 clean sheets

Like several other players on this list, Igor Akinfeev is a one-club player. He joined CSKA Moscow at the age of five in 1991, and has since established himself as one of the club’s sons.

He made his debut in 2003 at the age of 16, and since then he has only become better and better. Over the years, he has won six Russian championships, six Russian cups and perhaps most significantly the UEFA Cup in 2005.

He has been part of the Russian national team since 2004, and has currently played 94 games. He took part in Euro 2008, where Russia reached the semifinals, the best result since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as well as the 2014 World Cup.

Akinfeev is one of a handful players depicted at CSKA Moscow’s Wall of Honour at the VBE Arena.

He currently holds the record for most clean sheets for the Russian/Soviet national team and although he has been criticized lately, he continues to shatter football records. He is ranked 1st in the Lev Yashin club with 245 clean sheets. With him still only being 30, that lead will continue to grow for many years into the future, and it is doubtful whether anyone will ever beat him.

Toke Møller Theilade

Author: Toke Møller Theilade

Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.

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