The 15th round of games in the Russian First Division saw only one real shock, but continued a few of this year's more surprising trends.
The highlight was Yenisei's 4-2 win over a Zhemchuzhina side that imploded with eight minutes to go, conceding three, including this rather fine free kick from Valerii Korobkin.
I can't offer you a link to full highlights because OneDivision haven't posted any, despite showing the game on a rather dodgy stream on Tuesday. What I saw of the game in between the stream's many crashes pointed to the same organisational confusion that has marked Zhemchuzhina's performances all season. Goalkeeper Marek Cech admitted that Yenisei "deserved to win" because of "big mistakes in defence" on the part of Zhemchuzhina.
Yenisei, by contrast, make up for a lack of big signings with solid teamwork and great play on the break. Now fourth and two points off the top, Yenisei are in an unlikely promotion chase that shatters recent seasons' trend of awful performances by recently-promoted Siberian sides in the First Division.
Games in brief
SKA-Energia are holding 8th place based on a good home record and some very handy long shots. Goalkeeper Anton Kozorez was the stand-out performer in a 1-1 draw at home to Alania. Mordovia look like a plausible RPL side for next season and haven't lost since April. Tuesday's result was a routine if slightly clumsy 3-1 win over Baltika marked by good ball retention. Among the other promotion challengers, FC Nizhnyy's 3-1 win over Fakel and KamAZ's 3-2 win over Torpedo Moscow were fairly straightforward.
Elsewhere, a lot of former RPL teams had disappointing results - Sibir unable to beat Chernomorets at home, while Luch remain last with a 1-0 home defeat to Volgar-Gazprom Astrakhan marred by some truly dreadful finishing. Shinnik lost 2-1 to Ural, with the Yaroslavl side's Aleksandr Sukhov scoring a long-range opener that seemed to stun even him (0:35 on video). No video is available for Gazovik Orenburg's 1-1 draw in Bryansk, but it was apparently exceptionally dull.
- Khimki needed a last-minute equaliser to draw 3-3 away at Torpedo Vladimir and now sit 17th, in the relegation zone with an anonymous and shallow squad. This can only increase the pressure on head coach Aleksandr Grigoryan, who received the full support of the board two weeks earlier in the aftermath of a 6-0 thumping at home by Mordovia (although first-choice keeper Roman Berezovsky was away playing for Armenia). He may be one of the most decorated managers in Russian women's football history, but that's unlikely to cut much ice with Khimki's boisterous fan base.
- Volgar-Gazprom caretaker boss Aleksandr Krotov has been given the job full time after impressing with wins over Fakel, Khimki and Luch that lifted his side out of the relegation zone. He may end up spending a lot of time introducing himself - Krotov has no Wikipedia page and a Google.ru search brings up a crashing pilot, a wedding photographer and an author of Stalker fan-fiction ahead of him.
- Sibir's director of football Dmitrii Cheryshev, best known outside Russia for a solid La Liga goalscoring record at Gijon in the mid-90s, says he has been approached for Volga Nizhnyy Novgord in the RPL. Volga reportedly want him in the job by the end of the week, which would leave Sibir with rapidly fading hopes for a return to the RPL and lacking leadership in the upcoming transfer window. Even if Volga don't pick him, the speculation could end his time at Sibir. For Volga, he would be an unknown quantity, since he's only previously run one of Real Madrid's kids' sides. He apparently performed well, although with a team from the Real academy, that wouldn't be too difficult.