After the setback against city rivals Spartak at the weekend, Dinamo Moscow looked to get their season back on track with a trip to Premier League first-timers Ufa, who were only founded in December 2010.
Exciting new signing Mathieu Valbuena made his first start in Dinamo’s 3-4-1-2, while Igor Kolyvanov went with a 4-3-3.
The game was played at a higher tempo than what you would expect from the Russian Premier League, which shares many aspects of its style with Serie A. Dinamo pressed straight from kick-off, claiming the ball from Azamat Zaseev when a diamond of players trapped him in on all sides, while Ufa pressed diligently, also leaving their attacking trio up the pitch one-on-one against Dinamo’s back three.
It was clear Ufa were paying particular attention to Dinamo’s right side, where Stanislav Cherchesov opted to play Fedor Smolov at wing-back. While he did a reasonable job there, Smolov is naturally a forward and it was obvious he wasn’t as comfortable at tracking back as Yury Zhirkov on the opposite flank. Ufa’s creative hub Marcinho started the game on this side, but he and Diego Carlos switched sides mid-way through the first half, presumably to make use of Diego Carlos’ greater pace. He rarely posed much of a genuine attacking threat however, so Marcinho came back over to the left shortly before half-time. In a further attempt to overload this side, Maksim Semakin would make diagonal runs out to the left to overlap whenever Ufa’s left-sided attacker came inside. Considering how high his workload was, Douglas was doing well to cover for Smolov.
Ufa’s high pressure made it difficult for Dinamo to work the ball forward. Aleksandr Kokorin dropped off the front and Valbuena had to drift around to get on the ball – which he is admittedly very good at, allowing him to show off some of his best qualities on his first proper appearance for his new club – as the back three were unable to play the ball into Igor Denisov and Artur Yusupov without Ufa’s midfield snapping at their heels.
While struggling in open play, Dinamo had no such problems at set-pieces. Valbuena got two assists as Christopher Samba headed home a free-kick and substitute Kevin Kuranyi sealed the win from a corner. Ufa were doing well in open play, stretching Dinamo’s defence and catching out their defensive line with a string of chances after half-time, yet every one was squandered by poor finishing – that they managed the same number of shots as Dinamo (nine) shows they were competitive, but that only one was on target tells its own story. After the second goal, Cherchesov pulled back his wing-backs into a back five and Ufa could no longer pull apart Dinamo’s defence to any effect.
It was an entertaining and surprisingly even game, but neither side could complain about the end result. Ufa’s gameplan gave Dinamo problems, yet, despite having to rely on set-pieces for their goals, the capital club looked good for their lead. Ufa made it hard for them to get the ball forward but their quality meant they still managed it, while Ufa look like they could be an interesting addition to the league but it won’t matter if they are incapable of scoring goals.