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Season review: Russia

Published: Sunday 9 June 2013, 9.53CET
FC Anji Makhachkala and FC Kuban Krasnodar reached new highs, but Russia's first autumn-spring season was all about PFC CSKA Moskva as Leonid Slutsky's side did the double.
by Dmitri Rogovitski
from Moscow
Season review: Russia
CSKA celebrate victory in the Russian Cup final ©Getty Images features

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Published: Sunday 9 June 2013, 9.53CET

Season review: Russia

FC Anji Makhachkala and FC Kuban Krasnodar reached new highs, but Russia's first autumn-spring season was all about PFC CSKA Moskva as Leonid Slutsky's side did the double.

The Russian Premier-Liga bore a new complexion this season, the first played under the autumn-spring format, and a sense of renewal prevailed. FC Anji Makhachkala and FC Kuban Krasnodar hit new heights while PFC CSKA Moskva rose above FC Zenit St Petersburg to reign supreme once again.

Champions: PFC CSKA Moskva
Since winning their last title in 2006 the Army Men had always been there or thereabouts, finishing second three times, but had never quite been able to get over the line. After a sluggish start to this campaign, including a premature end to their European adventure, there was no stopping them. An all-or-nothing approach meant the season was beyond the halfway stage before CSKA recorded a first draw; Leonid Slutski's team clinched the championship with a game to spare, Zenit leaving their charge too late.

Cup final: PFC CSKA Moskva 1-1 FC Anji Makhachkala (CSKA win 4-3 on pens)
If the Premier League had been an unhappy hunting ground for the Army Men in recent years, the Russian Cup was terra firma. This was their sixth victory in nine seasons and perhaps the hardest earned as Anji dominated the final in Grozny, CSKA hanging on with ten men in extra time. Igor Akinfeev was ultimately the difference in the penalty shoot-out, saving Yuri Zhirkov's spot kick before Seydou Doumbia secured the silverware with an impudent chip.

European places*
PFC CSKA Moskva – UEFA Champions League group stage
FC Zenit St Petersburg – UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
FC Anji Makhachkala – UEFA Europa League group stage
FC Spartak Moskva – UEFA Europa League play-offs
FC Kuban Krasnodar – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
FC Rubin Kazan – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

* Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Igor Akinfeev (PFC CSKA Moskva)
There were nagging doubts about Akinfeev after a serious knee injury last term, but these were unceremoniously banished amid a fine campaign. Ever-present in the league until the final-day dead rubber, he conceded only 22 goals in 29 outings and was pivotal to CSKA's cup success. Such form earned the 27-year-old a recall to the Russia set-up, where he kept clean sheets in all four of his FIFA World Cup qualifying outings.

One to watch: Aleksey Miranchuk (FC Lokomotiv Moskva)
Lokomotiv had a miserable campaign but out of the gloom Miranchuk emerged as a shining ray of light. The 17-year-old midfielder made his top-flight debut in April and scored his first goal in May. Anji striker Samuel Eto'o named Miranchuk one of the best three players in the division.

Surprise package: FC Kuban Krasnodar
Kuban were languishing in the second tier in 2010 and finished mid-table last season, in eighth. They rose to fifth this time and can now prepare for the first European campaign in their 85-year history. This was achieved despite twice changing coach during the campaign, with Leonid Kuchuk appointed in January. They were unbeaten in the Premier-Liga since, including a run of six successive draws.

Leading scorers: Vanderson, FC Kuban Krasnodar; Yura Movsisyan, FC Krasnodar/FC Spartak Moskva (13)

Relegated: FC Mordovia Saransk, FC Alania Vladikavkaz

Promoted: FC Ural Ekaterinburg, FC Tom Tomsk

Number: 2,700
Kuban goalkeeper Aleksandr Belenov was the only player to feature in all 30 league matches from start to finish, a total of 2,700 minutes.

"I want to thank my mum. Ma, I love you! This victory is for you!"
CSKA coach Leonid Slutski, 42, after winning his first league title

Last updated: 10/06/13 1.15CET