Rubin 1-0 Copenhagen: Noboa penalty wins it
A penalty on the stroke of half-time kept Rubin’s Champions League hopes alive.
Rubin made one change from their previous Champions League game – Carlos Eduardo was unavailable, so Gokdeniz Karadeniz played behind the lone striker, Sergei Kornilenko.
Copenhagen’s line-up was similarly predictable – they kept the same XI that started the 1-1 draw at home to Barcelona.
This was a very cautious game – both sides defended deep with two banks of four, both looked to play on the counter and yet didn’t counter particularly well.
Copenhagen, as the away side, were naturally the more defensive of the two. Jesper Gronkjaer was the link player for the Danes but spent most of his game dropping into the midfield to pick up one of Rubin’s two central midfielders, generally Christian Noboa. The wide players played very narrow, though this encouraged their full-backs to get forward on the overlap.
Rubin were also suffering from a characteristic lack of creativity. Alan Kasaev, their brightest player in the competition so far, played surprisingly narrow on the left, always looking to come inside into the congested centre of the pitch, when taking advantage of the space on the flank would surely have been a better option.
Copenhagen’s central midfielders were playing so deep (both took it in turns to drop into the back four) that Gokdeniz Karadeniz was afforded little room in that zone and was not a big influence on the game. Midway through the first half, Kurban Berdyev took the decision to switch Karadeniz and Aleksandr Ryazantsev.
The goal eventually came from a set-piece – Gronkjaer needlessly handled a free-kick played into the area, and Noboa scored the penalty. It was just Rubin’s second goal in five Champions League games, and both have been Noboa penalties.
The second half saw no change in tactics from either side until the 73rd minute, when Stale Solbakken brought on 16-year-old Kenneth Zohore for Martin Vingaard, with Gronkjaer moving to the left and Copenhagen going 4-4-2.
This change, combined with the obvious desire to get a goal, led Copenhagen to playing a much more attacking style of football late on, and it should have produced an equaliser with almost the final kick of the game, when a long ball found Zohore, he found himself one-on-one against Sergei Ryzhikov, but shot straight at him.
Unquestionably one of the less exciting games of this season’s Champions League, contested between two teams who didn’t want to take the initiative. Rubin played no better than Copenhagen – the game was decided simply by a needless handball.
This group is still open, and either of these sides could progress to the round of 16. It’s likely that opponents would prefer to play Copenhagen than Rubin – the Danes are a decent side but depend too much on Dame N’Doye for their attacking play. Rubin are tough to break down and could frustrate good sides with solid defensive displays, and probably have a slightly more varied attacking threat.
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