Kurban Berdiyevs jacket and the scouts of Villareal in Kazan, Bukharovs double and a replacement for Chori, Eli Guttmans complaints and Bibras Natkho really on his way to somewhere Sports.ru is reporting from the capital of Tatarstan.
A handful of visitors from Israel, muffled in winter overalls, were cheerfully kicking around an empty beer bottle at one of the entrances of the Central Stadium. About an hour was left until the beginning of the match between Rubin and Hapoel, and its better to while away the time moving when its -15 outside. Kazan policemen, who dozingly followed the quiet fans from Tel-Aviv, roused themselves immediately as a group of fans of the Russian champions showed up around the Kazan Kremlin. "The football season has begun", said one of the superiors without much delight and ordered those under his command to get concentrated.
There was no point expecting a full stadium at Rubins first home match in 2010. Someone did not manage to leave his office, someone preferred to watch the game live on the TV instead of being chilled at the stands. About 7 or 8 thousand - its not too bad, though last year the arena happened to be filled up better even at the games with some outsiders of the Russian championship. A couple of seats in the journalists sector were taken by the representatives of Villareal who came to Russia in order to watch their probable rival. It seemed they were too lazy to ask their colleagues from Barcelona before going to Kazan, otherwise their flimsy sneakers would be replaced by warm boots, and they would be sporting some caps on their heads.
"In Spain nobody doubts that Rubin will go past Hapoel", the Spanish scout didnt even try to hide the purpose of his visit. Asking him about the probable outcome of the games between Villareal and Wolfsburg seemed redundant.
"We are glad to welcome one of the best teams in Europe ", thus greeted the stadium announcer the players of Hapoel. These were exactly the same words that Kazan fans heard in autumn at the games with Inter Milan, Barcelona and Dynamo Kyiv, but they did not sound so weird back then. Israelis itself made no secret that making it to the final 32 of the Europa League was a pleasant surprise for them. Kurban Berdiyev did not change his Champions League traditions. "Bekiich is awesome", whispered the stands when they saw the coach wore nothing warmer than a jacket once again.
Many were excited to see how Berdiyev will solve the problem of Dominguez, who left for Valencia in December. The Argentineans place was taken by Semak, while the Russian national teams captain was replaced by Murawski. The Pole, whose last season was spoilt by injuries, was in fact one of the best on the field that evening. He did the spadework not worse than Sibaya, and his passing was accurate and timely. Meanwhile, Semak made the fans forget their idol that went for Spain already by the end of the first half. Sergey will never have Choris speed, but the captains ability to see the field is not a bit worse. He found Bukharov with a long pass near the Israelis penalty area, and the forward of Rubin opened the score beating the defender and the goalkeeper one by one.
The conceded goal plunged the players of Hapoel into a catatonia. Even before that they did not quite understand how to play an attacking game on such a field. Tricks and elegant heel passes looked spectacular, but it all was of little use on that heavy pitch. The next error in midfield nearly resulted in the second goal by Bukharov, but the Scottish referee Collum decided that he oughtnt to kill the intrigue of the match by 20th minute. However, very soon the forward made it double, benefitting from da Silvas error. Its not for nothing that Bukharov spent his time during pre-season watching the games of Filipo Inzaghi.
Fortunately or not, nobody managed to see what is Ryzhikovs shape after the surgery. During the entire second half Hapoel did not create a single trouble for the Kazan goalkeeper, though their attacks had much more courage. Rubin went forward in smaller numbers, but it didnt affect the quantity of dangerous moments at Enyeamas goal. Nobody prevented Sergey Semak from receiving the ball and sending it into the empty net when he was making the defeat a devastating one. Bukharov paid it back to the captain with the assist, preferring the pass to a sharp-angle shot. For the midfielder it was the first goal in European cups since the memorable game against PSG in 2004.
Everybody could already guess what would the manager of Hapoel say at the press conference. Weather! That unpredictable thing didnt allow the Israelis to avoid the drubbing.
"I cant wait to see Rubin playing in Israel at +40", grieved Guttman. "If a major European team like Manchester United came to play here, the game would be postponed."
On previous day the manager said his team was going to forget about the cold weather as soon as the referee blows his whistle to start the game.
The reporters in the mixed zone wanted most of all to talk to the hero of the match Bukharov and to Rubins potential acquisition, Natkho, who in general didnt show anything to surprise with. The former spoke about the importance of team work, modestly smiling and playing down his own contribution to the victory, while the Hapoel midfielder gave a 15-minutes interview to an Israeli TV channel and then made a long photo session together with the crew. It seems like his departure from the club is really not far off.
Rubin Kazan Russia - Hapoel Tel Aviv Israel - 3:0 (2:0)
Goals: 1:0 - Bukharov (14), 2:0 - Bukharov (23), 3:0 - Semak (69).
RUBIN KAZAN: Ryzhikov, V. Kaleshin, Navas, Salukvadze, Ansaldi, Semak, Murawski, Noboa, Ryazantsev (Kasaev, 40), Karadeniz (Gorbanets, 88), Bukharov.
HAPOEL TEL-AVIV: Enyeama, Bondarv, Badir, da Silva, Shish, Menteshashvili(Zahavi, 46), Yadin (de Ridder, 74), Vermuth, Natkho, Shechter, Lala (Merey, 46).
Booked: Yadin (29), Bondarv (37), Shish (79), de Ridder (87).
February 18, Central Stadium, Kazan, 17.00.
Referee: William Collum.