Spartak Moscow – FC Ufa Match Report: Wrestlemania RFPL

The Sunday game between Spartak and Ufa was quite similar to an old-school professional wrestling match. Two teams have excellently played two classical roles. (And – no, I do not imply that the result, like in pro-wrestling, was predetermined too).

Ufa was a heel. “Heel”, in wrestling parlance, describes a character whose main job is to attract heat (anger) from the fans. Semak’s lads were excellent in that role: scored a quick and somewhat illogical goal (Andrey Eschenko later even said that the goal shouldn’t have stood because the ball crossed the touchline during Ufa’s combination play; even if he’s wrong, this fits the in-field story told on Sunday quite well), then started blatantly wasting time – both Aleksandr Belenov and Dmitry Zhivoglyadov were booed mercilessly for that – and in the second half, they even made some rather uncalled-for fouls (thankfully, nobody got injured). And when Spartak took the lead, the Ufa players showed another side of a very good heel: they suddenly started playing football again and even almost equalized after Oblyakov’s shot. When the heel just cheats, weasels his way out and abuses the referee’s loyalty (for instance, neither Belenov nor Zhivoglyadov were booked for their time-wasting), it’s one thing, but it’s another thing when you show you can fight fair and square, but for some reason choose not to. Igboun’s header in early game was excellent, but after the goal, Ufa hardly even approached Spartak’s penalty area until 40th or so minute, when Vanek put a shot over the crossbar, and time-wasting tactics continued right until 2-1.

Spartak was a babyface similar to Bret Hart (“babyface” is a positive character, whom the crowd support, and fits well with Spartak at home). He’s not particularly large, so regularly gets a beating from set pieces by bigger opponents – Igboun scored with a great header from a cross after a throw-in – but compensates with technical prowess, or, as Hart himself put it, “excellence of execution”. All three Spartak goals were good examples of said excellence of execution: Fernando’s cunning strike under the jumping players, Promes’ fantastic curved shot from the edge of the box, and Luiz Adriano finishing a perfect two-pass counter-attack. As per pro wrestling unwritten rule, the fans were sent home happy – both with the win itself and also with how and against whom their team won.

However, between those moments of excellence, Spartak more or less was this season’s usual self: very wasteful and error-prone in simple situations. In wrestling, when a technical-oriented babyface pulls off a very complex finishing move but botches basic things like arm drags or leapfrogs (remember how Promes just tripped on the ball in the first half, or how Spartak defended when they conceded from Igboun?), this leaves fans with rather mixed feelings. In football, it does too, even when the team scores enough goals to get a win.

Sergey Semak managed to both visit and no-show the post-match press conference. He came to an almost empty hall (most journalists didn’t make it there after the final whistle yet), gave his match commentary (which was about 45 seconds long) and left in a hurry, obviously disappointed with the result. Technically, he fulfilled his obligations, but some reporters were visibly annoyed that they were unable to even see Semak, let alone ask him any questions.

Massimo Carrera was relatively brief too: his interview was less than 10 minutes long. He was generally satisfied with the game (except for the conceded goal), and then shared some good news: after the international break, Roman Zobnin would be back in the main squad, so “we will return to the best last-season lineup”. And Spartak do need such a lineup: they’re going to play Zenit, CSKA, and Krasnodar before the winter break, in addition to two Champions League matches and Arsenal Tula, who are in good shape at the moment. Excellence of execution requires excellence of form. Especially when this excellence needs to be more than a few moments of brilliance among general profligacy.

 

Full disclosure: I am a Spartak fan, so this may have come off as somewhat biased, but it is designed in such a way for creative purposes.

 

Author: Alexey Spektrowski

I’m a Spartak Moscow fan who dabbles in Soviet/Russian football history (mostly numerical and statistical). Contributed some data to the Spartak Moscow museum at Otkrytie Arena.

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