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Football of character
Turkmen footballers spring surprise at CIS Cup 2010
The 18th International Cup of CIS and Baltic States - 2010 finished in Moscow. The International Turkmen-Turkish University (MTTU) from Ashgabat was one the tournament's surprises.

The champion of Turkmenistan started the tournament with a convincing victory over Tallinn's Levadia. Early in the second minute MTTU's captain Berdy Shamuradov scored from the 11-meter penalty mark and made a double early in the second half. The goal scored by Vitaliy Gusev at the 68th minute promised some chances for Estonians - 2:1. But in a few minutes, Dovran Allanazarov sealed the lead of MTTU. The game ended with the score 3:1.

Another "Group C" rival of the Ashgabat club was the collective team of Russian clubs under the leadership of Igor Kolyvanov composed of players from teams such as Zenit, CSKA, Spartak M, Moscow, Khimki, Amkar, Wings of the Soviets, Saturn. The host team scored two goals at the 10th and 13th minutes, but MTTU's midfielder Anton Kucherenko quickly put intrigue back to the match. The first half ended with the score 2:1. At the beginning of the second half, Russia's team forward Maxim Grigoriev scored his second goal. Then, following the excess of yellow cards, the Turkmen team's leading defenders Begley Annageldyev and Bayramdurdy Merezov were sent off the pitch, and the Russians widened the gap to 1:4 at the 89th minute. Toward the end of the match, Igor Kolyvanov's players broke the rules in their own penalty area, and a penalty kick was successfully implemented by MTTU's captain Berdy Shamuradov, who scored the third goal in the tournament. The match ended with the score 2:4.

Turkmenistan's match against Dynamo Kyiv's back up team ended with the similar score. According to the tournament regulations, the collective team of Russian clubs participated only in the group qualification stage of the CIS Cup. Therefore, regardless of the result of the match, MTTU and Dynamo would reach quarterfinals, leaving behind Estonian Levadia. Events unfolded rapidly in the match. Dynamo's Andrew Sahnevich scored at the 5th minute from a penalty mark, but striker Pirmurat Gazakov equalized quickly - 1:1. In 2 minutes the white-blues took the lead again, and the first half ended with the score 1:2. Despite the fact that the struggle was only for the order of teams in the group, the club trained by honored coach of Turkmenistan Yazkuli Hodzhageldyev fought to the last. Ten minutes before the end of the match Dinamo widened the gap, but within two minutes Shokhrat Soyunov scored back - 2:3. A few minutes before the end, Kiev players denied MTTU the last chance. Evgeniy Morozenko came off the winner in a one-on-one with Turkmenistan's keeper Alikper Kerimov and put the final point in the score - 2:4.

Thus, the Turkmen "students" reached quarterfinals with one win and two defeats from the third place in the group giving rise to talks about their "excessive" luck. No one would stake on MTTU who faced Uzbekistan's champion Bunyodkor in the quarterfinals. In the first half, Ashgabat's defender Maxim Beliy was sent off the pitch for committing a foul in his penalty area. However, even playing ten of them, "students" held tight defense and Berdy Shamuradov scored his fourth goal at the tournament by the end of the first half. Bunyodkor's substitute Dmitry Kuzin equalized at the 72nd minute, and penalty shoot-out was called in the end of the match. MTTU was luckier than his rival with all four balls reaching the net. Keeper Rahmanberdy Alikhanov deflected two of the four balls sent by Tashkent's players. The result of penalties was 4:2. Thus, Bunyodkor had to head home without losing a single match at the tournament.

As Yazkuli Hodzhageldyev told Turkmenistan.ru, he could not expect such a success of his club that yielded to Tashkent's players in experience. "However, from the first minutes of the match, our boys showed great desire to win. They played flat out, so I think we got a legitimate victory. We have had the upper hand because of our strong will," the MTTU coach said.

In the semifinal, Turkmenistan's champion played against the leader of Russia's football championship - Rubin. Despite the fact that Rubin was represented by the youth team composed of 19-20 year old boys, these are the leading players of the regular team who beat Barcelona, and coached by our countryman Kurban Berdiyev, who ranked among top 15 coaches in 2009. Given that MTTU did not have three core defenders for this match, the favorite seemed obvious. In the beginning of the match the Turkmen team took the lead and had the Rubin fans worried. However, the Kazan youth, who failed to qualify from the group at the last year's CIS Cup, thirsted for revenge and Igor Portnyagin Alexander Yarkin and Vadim Afonin scored in the first-half, thus robbing the game of its intrigue - 0:3. In the second half, MTTU failed to use its chances to score, while Ilya Kuharchuk of Rubin raised the score to 4:0 at the 59th minute.

As Rubin's regular team striker Igor Portnyagin pointed out after the match, the score didn't make the team's win easy. "To prevent any fortuitousness in the game, it was necessary for us to act with maximum dedication, which we did," he said.

In turn, MTTU's honored coach of Turkmenistan Yazkuli Hodzhageldiev said after the match that he was pleased with performance of his players. "Our goal for the CIS Cup was to qualify from the group. As it turns out, we have even exceeded the plan. The advantages of the champion of Russia, Rubin, are difficult to deny, but I think, if we had played with our three key defenders in this match, the score of today's game could have been different," he said.

For the first time in 9 years, the Turkmen footballers joined the four best teams of the CIS Cup. Kopetdag of Ashgabat was the only Turkmen club to achieve such success in 2001. "Reaching the semifinals is a great success, but it is already a matter of the past for us," said Yazkuli Hodzhageldiev. "Just a week before the CIS Cup, I was asked to coach the national team of Turkmenistan, which is composed almost entirely of the MTTU players. In February, the capital of Sri Lanka will host the second largest Asian tournament for national teams - the AFC Challenge Cup, where we will face the strong rivals - India, Korea and Kyrgyzstan. Participation in other Asian championships awaits the national team as well. So we should not relax."

On the result of the CIS Cup, MTTU's forward Berdi Shamuradov became the 5th best striker of the tournament with 4 goals scored. According to Yazkuli Hodjageldiev, this result was predictable: "Berdi is the best scorer in Turkmenistan for several years in a row. I see his great potential, he would prove himself even in leading European clubs."

In the final match for the Cup of CIS and Baltic countries Ashgabat's MTTU "offender" Rubin beat the best team of Kazakhstan, Aktobe, with 5:2 score. Kazan players took revenge for last year's championship, and Rubin became Russia's first club who managed to win the CIS Cup since 2005, and the first in the history of the tournament to win with the back-up team.

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