FC Rubin Kazan proved that winning the Russian title last season was no fluke by repeating the feat on Saturday when a goalless draw at home to FC Zenit St. Petersburg, combined with PFC CSKA Moskva's 3-2 win at rivals FC Spartak Moskva, clinched the crown for a second time with a game to spare.
A crowd of 22,000 packed into the Centralniy Stadium to witness Rubin's triumph, which was assured without the need for a goal after second-placed Spartak were beaten by CSKA. Rubin, who were only promoted to the top flight for the first time six years ago, lead the table by five points from Spartak and cannot be caught ahead of the final round of matches next week. "Our performance, especially after the break, did not satisfy me, but the main thing is we played for a result and got it," coach Kurban Berdyev said. "This season was harder than last year. We had to prove our success was no accident and that was our aim from the start. We wanted to confirm our reputation as the leaders of Russian football."
Rubin have done just that and more, given their UEFA Champions League exloits against the likes of FC Barcelona and FC Internazionale Milano this autumn. Their fans can now look ahead to more of the same next season after qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage for a second time. "I want to thank our supporters and to congratulate them with this big victory," Berdyev added. "The UEFA Champions League games show we still have a lot of room to improve, but today I am just delighted."
Rubin's players echoed the words of their coach. "Our emotions are even stronger now as it is harder to defend the title than to win it for the first time," said Aleksandr Ryazantsev, who scored Rubin's brilliant opening goal in their sensational 2-1 win at Barcelona on Matchday 3. "Many people thought we won the title by chance last year, but we have proved that was not the case," defender Roman Sharonov said, with Russian international striker Aleksandr Bukharov adding: "This title is a special one as we won it in front of our supporters in Kazan. I would also like to thank CSKA for beating Spartak."
Three more matches
The Rubin players paraded after the match in special '2009 Champions' t-shirts but they know they still have plenty of work ahead of them this year before the celebrations can begin in earnest. On Tuesday they host FC Dynamo Kyiv in Group F of the UEFA Champions League before travelling to FC Kuban Krasnodar for the final round of the Russian Premier-Liga next Saturday. They complete their Group F campaign on 9 December at Inter. They are second in the section, a point behind the Italian champions, but ahead of Barcelona by virtue of their head-to-head record against the holders.
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