Dinamo struggle aids challengers

Monthly review: FC Dinamo Tbilisi have surrendered their lead in the Georgian Premier League.

By Vakhtang Bzikadze

A tough month for FC Dinamo Tbilisi has seen them surrender their Georgian Premier League lead.

Consecutive defeats
Having been four points clear, Dinamo stumbled when they lost their opening UEFA Cup group-stage game 2-0 against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard on 21 October, then fell 5-0 to FC Tbilisi four days later. The following week FC Torpedo Kutaisi won 2-1 at Dinamo to move level on points.

Torpedo ahead
Torpedo have since overcome FC Dila Gori and FC Dinamo Batumi to establish a two-point advantage at the top. Dinamo Tbilisi, held by FC Kolkheti-1913 Poti on 11 November, are in joint-second place with Tbilisi, who would have equalled Torpedo's tally had they not lost a two-goal cushion to draw 2-2 with Dila on 30 October.

Tbilisi change
Tbilisi are now led by Luis Zacharias, who will deputise for Georgi Devdariani for the rest of 2004 until the latter returns from studies in Germany. His team are five points above title-holders FC WIT Georgia, whose 0-0 draw with FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi on the last matchday left the rival clubs locked in fourth place. WIT have released goalkeeper Mirza Merlani after an internal dispute.

Batumi drama
Batumi are just behind in sixth, having lost narrowly at Tbilisi in a game where visiting goalkeeper Ioseb Grishikashvili was injured with his side 3-1 down. All three Batumi substitutes had been used, so midfielder Temur Malania took over in goal and kept a clean sheet as Batumi narrowed the gap to 3-2.

Sioni struggle
In the last match before the international break, newcomers FC Zestafoni moved out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at bottom club Dila. Their place went to FC Sioni Bolnisi, who only conceded last season's title in a play-off with WIT, but who continue to struggle despite replacing coach Varlam Kilasonia with caretaker Georgi Kipshidze.

Georgian Cup draw
Meanwhile, in the Georgian Cup, one quarter-final berth remains available with holders Dinamo meeting Zestafoni over two legs in early December. The winners will play Batumi in February. In the other ties, Tbilisi face Torpedo, Kolkheti-1913 take on Lokomotiv, and WIT encounter second division side FC Ameri Tbilisi.