Celtic’s win in Moscow on Tuesday has caused an interesting introspection in Russia, with both Spartak and some in the Russian media coming under scrutiny. The pre-match tone was set by comments we reported from former Spartak player and coach, Andrey Tikhonov, who, on the day of the draw, said:
“Barcelona are favourites from the group. We and Benfica will be fighting for second place.
“Celtic are outsiders. The Champions League competition is about very good technical football. It has nothing to do with running after the ball that somebody kicked forward.”
Another former Spartak player and Soviet international, who now works as a technical analyst and all-round raconteur , Aleksandr Bubnov, had a completely different take on Celtic, Spartak and the Russian and Scottish media.
Bubnov told Russian television:
“Spartak players thought they could push Celtic defenders around like toys. They played long crosses forward like the idiots. Celtic defenders knocked back everything. It was like training for Celtic, they were on holiday.
“When Celtic attacked for the first time, de Zeeuw thought that Insarualde would stop the Celtic player, Insarualde thought Pareja will stop him. When Celtic scored de Zeew asked, ‘Where was Pareja ?’ Pesjakov answered de Zeeuw, “You forgot? Pareja is still at the lunch, he will be back for the second half.”
Bubnov criticised TV analysts who before the game debated whether Celtic would survive in the bottom half of the Russian premier division or a lower division. He added:
“We were told by the experts that Spartak will shut Celtic out, kill them and bury outside the stadium. They are experts, they watch games, they take money for this kind of analysis. They told us Celtic are one story heroes.
“They talked about Rangers relegated to the fourth Division for financial cheating. You see how they do things there? What fantastic salvation. You are cheaters Rangers? OK, go and take long rest. Those in charge are professionals, nobody would help Rangers. They don’t go to the president, or the prime minister.
“Cherdantsev (TV expert) never played football. You heard him, Spartak players and all these experts. ‘No problem, champions of Scotland? Who are Celtic, who are Scotland?
“Experts? Did they watch Celtic against Benfica? Benfica are top in Portugal, Celtic drew with them. Even the stupid Scottish experts came here and told us Spartak would win 2-0.”
When asked how Spartak should play in the return game against Celtic, Bubnov suggested:
“You need to close wings and play carefully at the back. Celtic will not perform like Spartak did against Barcelona. They played and let the other team play.
“Neil Lennon was very smart coach. He closed Spartak options on the wings. Emeri (Spartak manager) should close Celtic wings. Emeri’s tactics was move wingers to the centre to leave more room for attacks from left and right defenders. But, our defenders were poor and slow.
“Emeri was stupid, he moved Aiden McGeady and Dmitri Kombarov to the centre because Neil Lennon closed wings. What happened? They both played out of position and Kombarov scored an own goal.”
“Spartak were open on the wings and there was a brothel at the back. Neil Lennon did what he wanted to do with Spartak”
Conversational Russian is apparently rich with imagery.[calameo code=000390171e0be5eb5e6ce lang=en page=4 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]