FC MINSK 1 ISLOCH 1 (Att - 200)
It was all square in the first of many Minsk derby games to come in the 2021 season as FC Minsk and Isloch played their first games under new management. Fedor Shcherbachenko of FC Minsk and former BATE Borisov player Artem Radkov in his first managerial role made their debut in the dug-outs for the two City rivals.
Shecherbachenko had a number of new signings in his starting XI including goalkeeper Sergey Ignatovich who has joined from Dynamo Brest and former Isloch defender Sergey Kotesvoy who playing against his old side had an afternoon to remember for the many reasons.
FC Minsk also had Dmitri Aliseyko (Torpedo-Belaz Zhodino), Sulley Muniru (FC Tambov) and Austin Agwata making their debuts for their new club. Agwata is an 18 year old Nigerian attacker who is relatively unknown prior to joining up with Minsk. Muniru is is a play-making midfielder who is the younger brother of former Inter Milan, AC Milan, Portsmouth and Sunderland player Sulley Muntari. The Ghanian, 28, has played for CFR Cluj and FCSB in Romania as well as short spells in Portugal and Turkey. He spent the 2019 season in Belarus with Dynamo Minsk where he made 10 league appearances. He joins after a short spell in Russia with FC Tambov and back in Ghana with Asante Kotoko. He has played in both the Europa League and Champions League whilst playing in Romania. He played for FCSB in their Champions League play off games in 2016 against Manchester City in which the English Premier League club won 6-0 on aggregate.
PICTURES USED COURTESY OF @minsk1954
Isloch started with 38 year old veteran Boris Pankratov in goal after his move from Slutsk along with defender Dmitri Zinovich who had made the opposite journey Kotesvoy made across the city and was playing against his former side.
Radkov also gave debuts to Shamsiddin Shanbiev (Ural), Maksim Ermakov (Tuapse), Artem Gurenko (Vitebsk), Maksim Mayakish (BATE), Ruslan Lisakovich (Krumkachy), Vladislav Morozov (Rukh Brest), Yurey Kozyrenko (Vorkla) so it was a much changed Isloch side to the last one that played under now BATE Borisov coach Vitaly Zhkovsky at the end of the last season.
The home side took the lead on 17 minutes when Kotesvoy tapped home from close range to score against his former club after a cross from the impressive Oleg Evdokimov left hand side was headed back across goal by Yvegenii Chagovets .
Isloch equalised in the second half to the delight of their small but noisy group of fans in the stadium when Vladislav Morozov's deflected header via Chagovet's hit the back of the net.
Kotesvoy was unjustly sent off for a second bookable offence close the end of the game when he was adjudged to have committed a foul on Anton Kovalev but the replay you can see absolutely no contact was made. Hopefully the Belarusian FA will overturn the decision as I'm sure FC Minsk will appeal it.
TORPEDO ZHODINO 3 ARSENAL DZERZHINSK 0 (Att - 350)
It was a result that was to be expected as Premier League Torpedo ran in three goals against resolute First League side Arsenal who defended impressively but conceded three second half goals to Yuri Puntus's team who are expected to very well in the top tier this season with many fans predicted they could be challenging for the title.
Torepdo only had two debutants in their starting XI in Igor Burko (Shakhtyor Soligorsk) and Alekey Antilsevskiy (Rukh Brest).
Kirill Kirlenko scored the first for Torpedo when he struck from close range. Nikita Nikolaev then scored a second when he was able to score following a tremendous goal line clearance from an Arsenal defender. In injury time Samuel Odeoibo headed home to make the final score 3-0 and put Torpedo with one foot in the semi-final of the Cup which they have won just once in their history in 2015/16.
Arsenal under coach Pavel Krilchik will do very well in the first league this season and I expect them to be playing in the top tier in 2022.
BATE BORISOV 2 VITEBSK 1 (Att - 157)
It was a very chilly Sunday afternoon in Minsk (the game was played at the home grounf of FC Minsk) with the pitch being covered in more than just a dusting of snow for most of the game as BATE's new era under former Isloch coach Vitaly Zhukovsky began. With the lines swept we saw the orange ball in use the icy conditions and wind blowing across the pitch didn't make it ideal for the beautiful game to be played.
Despite the high profile departures of Egor Filipenko and Igor Stasevich to rival's Shakhtyor Soligorsk there were no debutants in Zhukovsky's first starting XI. Pavel Karasev (FC Tambov), Shakhboz Umarov (Energetyk-BGU) and Maxsim Volodko (FC Tambov) were all new signings on the bench along with Sergey Volkov who moved from Vitesbsk at the end of the 2020 season.
Vitebsk are also under new management after Sergey Yasinsky's departure to manage the Belarusian u21 side. His successor is Evegeni Chernukhin who was assistant as BATE last season as well as a three season spell with Vitesbsk as Yasinsky's right hand man.
He gave debuts to Aleksey Yanushkevich (Isloch), Andrey Lebedev (was with Vitesbsk in 2016) and Andrey Shemruk (FC Minsk) who were included in the starting XI.
Vitebsk took the lead when Ruslan Teverov crossed for Brazilian midfielder Wanderson to head home on - Starting his fourth season with the club it was only his third goal for the club. His previous coming against against Belshina in the league last season and in the cup against Dynamo Minsk in 2019.
The lead lasted only six minutes when Nikolay Signevich since he struck twice in the Champions League game against PAOK in December 2018. The striker has had a spell in Hungary with Ferencvaros and in Russia with Khimki since. He headed home a second in 53 minutes to make the final score 2-1.
Vitebsk are still right in with a chance with their only being one goal in it going into the second leg.
SHAKHTYOR SOLIGORSK 3 NEMAN GRODNO 0 (Att - 800)
The champions take a commanding lead into the second leg of their quarter-final against Neman thanks to second half goals from Yuri Kendysh, Dembo Darboe and Shakhzodbek Ubaydullaev.
Darboe was one of three debutants in the Shakhtyor starting XI along with Valon Ahmedi and Eze Okehuie. Ubaydullaev is another new signing who came off the bench to score on his debut.
The game turned in the second half when central defender Aleksey Legchilin was sent off for appearing to pull back Darboe when he was through on goal in the 59 minute. The Neman players were highly animated when protesting the referee about the decision and felt it wasn't a foul - All I'll say is as soon as Legchilin made contact with Darboe's right shoulder he gave him the option of going down which in turn left the official with a decision to make?
Kendysh scored the resulting penalty kick to make it 1-0. Darboe then scored a second from close range following some good work on the right wing by Roman Begunov with Ubaydullaev adding a third goal assisted by Darboe.
Neman gave debuts to Nikita Stepanov (Torpedo-Belaz Zhodino), Yuri Kozlov (Slutsk), Yegor Zubavich (Zhetsyu) and Roman Gribvoski (FC Minsk) in their starting XI. Krygystan International midfielder Alimardon Shukurov was an unused substitute - He has recently been signed from Turkish club Boluspor who play in the Turkish second tier. The 21 year old could be a replacement for Gegam Kadimyan who was so impressive last season - The Armenian International is now with Kazakhstan Premier League club FC Kaisar.
The focus in Belarus now shifts to the opening weekend of fixtures in the Premier League starting this coming Friday!