2019 FNL Cup – Summary and Best Players

The FNL Cup is an annual tournament held in the winter break of the Russian domestic calendar, typically taking place in the warmer climates of Cyprus (or occasionally Turkey).

Played in mid to late February, just before the season resumes, it consists primarily of clubs from the FNL, and occasionally the odd club from the RPL, PFL or abroad.

The 2019 edition saw reigning champions Ural come back to compete, the only RPL side in the tournament. Eleven FNL sides made up the bulk of the teams, as well as Levadia from Estonia, FC Riga from Latvia, and Pyunik of Armenia. The groups are highly contented, and the schedule is busy. The top team from the four groups will contest for the semifinals and finals.

Group A

Debutantes FC Murom of the PFL struggled, picking up a solitary point from their three matches. Pyunik and Mordovia were comfortably brushed aside by group winners Rotor Volgograd, who won all three games lead by Kamil Mullin and Roman Yanushkovsky.

Group B

Chertanovo, flying in the FNL but still reeling from the loss of talented teens Glushenkov and Umyarov, struggled and finished bottom of the group. Latvians FC Riga got their only win against the Moscow side, while Shinnik came out on top after vying with Tyumen for first place.

Group C

Group C was an all Russian affair, but featured RPL side Ural. Having played the first two matches with a strong team, winning one and losing one, Ural switched to their reserves for the rest of the tournament and lost again. Khimki and Krasnodar both only managed a win each, while Tambov romped to first place by winning all their matches.

Group D

Group D was much tighter, as Avangard Kursk took first place on head-to-head over Spartak-2. Estonians Levadia and Fakel both held their own, with Levadia beating Avangard, before then losing to Fakel.

Play-Offs

With the groups over, the teams played off for all the places between 16-5, with the rankings ending up as follows:

5th – Tyumen (beat Spartak-2 2-0)
6th – Spartak-2
7th – Khimki (beat Mordovia on pens)
8th – Mordovia
9th – Krasnodar-2 (beat Pyunik on pens)
10th – Pyunik
11th – FC Riga (beat Fakel on pens)
12th – Fakel
13th – Chertanovo (beat Levadia 3-0 after they forfeited)
14th – Levadia
15th – Ural (beat Murom 4-2)
16th – Murom

A lot of penalty shoot outs to play-off for these spots, and an interesting situation with Levadia and Chertanovo. The Estonian’s lead 2-1 at half time, but had two players sent off in 30 seconds just before half time, and then refused to continue. In a compromise, the sides played another 45 minutes after Chertanovo was awarded the win, in an 11 v 11 tie, which Chertanovo won 1-0.

As for the top four, both semi-finals were decided on penalties, and despite looking the strongest, Tambov fell to Avangard, while Rotor defeated Shinnik after a 1-1 draw. With Tambov comfortably securing third-place with a 2-0 victory over Shinnik, the final was played out in another draw and saw yet another shootout.

Avangard came out on top, winning their first ever FNL Cup. A big victory for a club rumoured to have some financial difficulties earlier in the year. Lead by Russian international Maksim Grigoryev and midfielder Mikhail Zemskov, Avangard continued their great form from the league, where they sit in third place, challenging following promotion. A solid defence conceded just three goals in their five matches, while Zemskov, scoring twice in the tournament, has become the all-time FNL Cup top scorer, with eight goals.

Who stood out?

The FNL Cup handed out a number of awards at the end of the tournament, which went as follows:

Best Goalkeeper – Aleksandr Sautin (Avangard)
Best Defender – Kirill Gotsuk (Avangard)
Best Midfielder – Mikhail Zemskov (Avangard)
Best Striker – Kamil Mullin (Rotor)

Player of the Tournament – Roman Yanushkovsky (Rotor)

Rotor Official Site

No surprises to see the awards go to players representing clubs in the final, but outside of the award winners, there were a number of other standout players.

Benito – Tambov: With little time in the league this year, the Nigerian winger impressed when given some minutes, and in this tournament, he showed what he could do with three goals in five appearances, and coming in as the eighth best player of the tournament according to InStat.

Nail Umyarov – Spartak-2: The midfielder is a new arrival from Chertanovo this window, and had impressed with the first team before jetting out to Cyprus. In an un-flashy role in midfield, the 18-year-old still shone in the middle of the park with InStat ranking him as the fifth best player.

FNL

Kirill Kolesnichenko – Chertanovo: Tipped for big things in 2017, when he made the Guardian ‘Next Generation’ list, the 19-year-old now needs to step up to the first team, especially with the sale of Maksim Glushenkov to Spartak. He started off well, bagging two goals and laying up an assist in the FNL Cup this year. Hopefully, he can carry it over to the league.

Guardian

Khetag Khosonov – Tambov: Having started the season by scoring the winner in the Russian Super Cup, Khosonov has moved to Tambov to get some first team football. In the FNL Cup, he thrived for his new team, keeping things ticking over and starting attacks in what could be promising signs.

Stefan Panic – FC Riga: A Serbian international, and aged 26, the defensive midfielder topped the tables for nearly all relevant statistics. The top passer, the most challenges (total), the most challenges in defence, and rated the third best player of the whole tournament by InStat. Playing in Latvia, it appeared he played below his level, and could be a nice pickup for a lower half RPL side at least.

An honourable mention goes to Levadia attacking midfielder Artjom Komlov, who at just 16-years-old, was the youngest player to feature during the tournament and scored on his sole appearance. Other players who shone included Chertanovo winger Roman Ezhov, Pyunik midfielder Alek Arakelyan and Spartak-2 striker Dmitriy Markitesov, who all put in solid performances throughout.

The tournament has again proven to be a great warm-up for the second half of the season, as well as a decent proving ground for triallists, youngsters and integrating new signings before competitive football begins.

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Author: David Sansun

Arsenal and Rubin Kazan fan. Possibly too optimistic for Russian football which means I’m left disappointed a lot.

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