Soviet Union – Austria: Hosts triumph deservedly after improved performance on a wet surface
Ref.: Rune Larsson
L 1: Karl Erik Davidsen
L 2: Lars Carlsson
Written by: kaltz
After a disappointing performance and result in their opening qualifier, the Soviet Union were back on home soil for their second match of the series. Since the start of the decade, the Soviets’ home stats in qualifiers read 14 wins from 15 and a goal difference of 40-1 (!), so any optimism in the visiting Austrian camp would’ve been respectfully muted.
This was only the second qualification match in the 1980s to be played out in Kiev. The previous one had been a 2-0 win against East Germany in the qualification ahead of the 1988 European Championships. On the back of recent success both in West Germany and in the Seoul Olympics, Soviet spirits ought to have been high. The Austrians’ away qualifying wins during the 80s had come three times against Albania, once against Cyprus and once in Finland. This was a different proposition. In three friendly fixtures preparing for the qualification, the Austrians had looked less than convincing, and they would need something special to kick-start their campaign with even a single point.
Soviet team news
Valery Lobanovsky was back on the Soviet bench after his absence due to illness for both their previous matches since the European Championships: away to Finland (friendly) and away to Iceland. This meant that Lobanovsky’s assistant Yuri Morozov could take up again his original position, having been placed temporarily in charge whilst his boss was on sick leave.
Neither performance nor result had been quite what the Soviet Union would’ve wanted in Iceland, and so it was necessary to regain belief through winning their first home fixture of the qualification. However, Lobanovsky didn’t seem to have it all his way prior to kick-off, as a few players who were more or less deemed regulars, at least in the squad, were unavailable to him. He had to make do without two of the eleven starters in Reykjavik: Both right-back Vladimir Bessonov, who had been substituted during the second half, and central defender Oleg Kuznetsov were nowhere to be seen. The same applied for forwards Igor Belanov and Igor Dobrovolsky, who had both been among the substitutes in Iceland. The latter had come on as Bessonov’s second half replacement, and had since then produced a richly inspired Olympic tournament, where he had scored six goals in six matches as the USSR went on to clinch the trophy through their 2-1 extra time win against Brazil in the final.
There was a debutant at right-back for the Soviets, though it should quickly be pointed out that Žalgiris Vilnius’ Valdas Ivanauskas would be operating in a more forward wide capacity than a customary right-sided defensive role would suggest. The 22 year old from the Lithuanian republic was a surprise inclusion. He had not been part of the Olympic set-up, where his Žalgiris team mate Arminas Narbekovas had competed in all six matches. Ivanauskas had to be seen as a direct replacement for Bessonov. In the absence of Kuznetsov, Lobanovsky had drafted into the starting select 25 year old Dinamo Minsk player Andrey Zygmantovich. The manager would’ve wanted someone akin to Kuznetsov in style for this vital position ahead of the libero, and the tall Zygmantovich, who had been on the bench in Reykjavik, seemed a decent fit. This was already Sergey Aleinikov’s Minsk team mate’s 21st international, so he was hardly an unknown capacity.
Vagiz Khidiatullin appeared to have an admirer in Lobanovsky, who would keep faith with his libero despite Khidiatullin’s poor showing in Iceland, where he had been directly to blame for Iceland’s goal. Left-back Demyanenko had also been below par on that occasion, but he was another one who would again get the nod. This was the Dinamo Kiev captain’s 73rd international, second highest among the home team players, where only goalkeeper Dasayev ranked above him with 84.
In midfield, Aleinikov, Aleksey Mikhailichenko, Gennady Litovchenko and Vasily Rats were all more or less natural starters. The often influental Mikhailichenko had seemed to suffer from a lack of confidence during their two most recent internationals, but nevertheless would he be in Lobanovsky’s starting eleven. Notably, the Dinamo Kiev ace had had a wonderful Olympics, where he had scored no less than five times from the USSR’s six matches on their way to the title.
Aleksandr Zavarov was one of two foreign legionnaires in the Soviet side, something which had been unheard of until very recently. In the less totalitarian political climate since the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet president, senior players were even given the opportunity to move abroad to further their careers. This would, hopefully, bring back new impulses to the national team. Whereas Zavarov had moved to Italy to play for giants Juventus, libero Khidiatullin was found in Toulouse in France. Zavarov would take up his customary role as a deep lying forward behind Oleg Protasov.
Among the substitutes, there were several players who had represented the nation during the Olympics. Their heroics in bringing back the gold medals had been rewarded, and no less than four possible debutants at full international level were the outfield alternatives. Dinamo Kiev ‘keeper Viktor Chanov had already ten caps to his name. The quartet were defender Sergey Gorlukovich, who had performed as libero in Seoul, defensive midfielder Aleksey Cherednik of champions elect Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk, from where also the more attacking Vladimir Lyuty hailed. With no Igor Dobrovolsky available to Lobanovsky, the striker option among the substitutes was 23 year old Yuri Savichev, who had scored the extra time winner in the final of the Olympics with a fine lob over the advancing Taffarel. A substitutes’ bench so bereft of international experience must have raised quite a few eyebrows in the still conservative footballing circles in the vast nation. At least, Lobanovsky could not be blamed for only involving familiar faces.
Austria team news
Austria were coming into their opening qualifier on the back of some indifferent results. Having done alright during the spring, with good wins against both Denmark and near rivals Hungary, defeats against Brazil and Czechoslovakia would’ve dampened optimism somewhat before their massively difficult trip in behind the Iron Curtain. They were still in the process of completing a generational change, as their previous qualification had been the final one for some famously wonderful performers. Still, though, there was a couple of old-timers lingering, and the match in Kiev would for example represent 31 year old goalkeeper Klaus Lindenberger’s first ever World Cup qualifier. He had been previous manager Branko Elsner’s first choice between the sticks also for the 1988 European Championships qualifiers.
Manager Josef ‘Pepi’ Hickersberger had been working since the turn of the year, and he would’ve been blatantly aware that Austria could no longer rely on some of their recent history’s finest characters. The previous generation had, despite those fine names of goalkeeper Friedrich Koncilia, defender Bruno Pezzey, midfielder Herbert Prohaska and forwards Hans Krankl and Walter Schachner, been unable to qualify them for the ’86 World Cup, and Hickersberger’s predecessor Elsner had begun the hard task replacing most of them for the 1988 European Championships qualification. Still, though, libero Heribert Weber, now 33, remained from the old guard. Winning his 58th cap in Kiev, he was more than twice ahead of Austria’s second most capped player. Weber, still with some pace in his ageing legs, seemed a natural fit for captaincy.
‘Pepi’ had been using 5-3-2 for the 2-0 home friendly defeat against the Brazilian Olympic select two and a half months earlier, and this would be the formation with which he would confront the hosts in the mighty Respublikansky Stadion. Ahead of Weber in the heart of their defence, there was the versatile Kurt Russ as well as strong left-footer Anton Pfeffer, both 23 years of age. With four and six internationals behind them respectively, they would have to rely heavily on captain Weber’s guile to aid them in tying the defensive line together. Russ was possibly more known for his ability to perform in a wide defensive role, but he had also been seen in midfield, even at national team level, so even at this relatively early stage in his career, the long-haired Russ was earning himself something of a ‘jack of all trades’ tag.
Being well aware that Austria would need to form a sound defensive backbone in the Soviet Union, manager Hickersberger would not be looking for a lot of attacking contribution from his two wide defenders, at least not from the outset. Perhaps was it something of a surprise to see Manfred Zsak, another 23 year old and someone more familiar in a midfield position, included at right-back. Zsak was a physically strong player, and ‘Pepi’s’ idea could well have been to bolster up his right hand side to try and avoid as much as they could the traditionally strong flank play from the hosts through Demyanenko and Rats. Opposite was Josef Degeorgi, a less imposing player, but equipped with a decent left foot. At 28, the Austria Wien defender, one of four starters from the Austrian Bundesliga runners-up, was the second most senior player in the side. The game also marked something of a personal anniversary, as he would win his 25th cap. This applied even for striker Toni Polster.
Despite sitting with five across the back, Hickersberger had also picked a midfielder with predominantly defensive tasks in tough man Peter Artner. The 22 year old was the youngest starter among the visitors, and he had been given the vital task of trying to deny Soviet playmaker Aleksandr Zavarov space. Artner would rarely be far away from the now Juventus player at any stage during the game. Ahead of him in the three man strong midfield, were Gerald Willfurth (to his right) and Walter Hörmann. Willfurth was capable of putting in a lot of miles through his big engine, and it was thought he would need to assist right-back Zsak quite a lot in trying to deny the Soviet left hand side time and space. The diminutive Hörmann had, somewhat surprisingly, been chosen ahead of rising star Andreas Herzog in the role of the Spielführer. This could’ve been done deliberately on grounds of Hörmann being stronger defensively than the 20 year young Rapid Wien starlet.
Up top, Anton Polster clearly seemed to be a foregone conclusion as a starter. After a year in the Italian Serie A with Torino, he had during the summer transferred to Spanish football with Sevilla. Polster’s strengths seemed to lie in his strong build, his aerial play and his ability to deliever crisp left-footed strikes; he was a finisher of some sort. On this occasion, there was no Andreas Ogris to be seen, and so the task of assisting Polster up top had gone to Christian Keglevits. Remarkably, the Wiener SC forward had not been a part of the national team for more than four years. On the bench remained the option to field Peter Pacult, a decent goalscorer at national level, but perhaps did ‘Pepi’ consider the Swarovski Tirol striker too similar to Polster to let the 28 year old start. Keglevits possessed some of that movability that the absent Ogris had, and so seemed to complement the Sevilla ace better than Pacult.
To complete the rather youthful impression about his select, Hickersberger had folk such as Ernst Aigner, Gerald Glatzmayer and said Herzog among the substitutes. 21, 19 and 20 were their age, whereas second choice goalkeeper Franz Wohlfahrt was no old-timer himself at 24. Previously mentioned Pacult was the squad’s second oldest player with his 28, though he still only had 15 caps to his name. Should there be use for Admira Wacker defender Aigner, he would come on to make his international debut.
Big defender Robert Pecl had seemed likely to be included had he been available. The same could possibly have been said about midfielders Peter Stöger and the seasoned Ernst Baumeister. Yet another up and coming defender was Peter Schöttel, who also was nowhere to be seen. They did have a lot of fairly young players about to embark on international careers, did the Austrians, but the question still remained whether or not they were of sufficient calibre to take the country all the way through to qualification.
36 year young Swede Rune Larsson had been put in charge of the fixture. This was only his fourth international task since his debut just over three years earlier, when he had overseen a 1-0 home win for Finland against Turkey in the qualification ahead of the 1986 World Cup. Larsson had been in the Soviet Union officiating earlier, as he had been the man in the middle for their 1-0 Olympic qualifying victory against Norway ahead of the ultimately successful 1988 participation in Seoul. However, appearing in front of a six figure crowd in Kiev was a different proposition. Larsson’s linesman Lars Carlsson would in a newspaper interview more than 20 years later go on record saying that the experience in the Ukrainian Soviet this October night had been a highly memorable one.
The two countries had 12 times earlier crossed paths. Austria had a decent record against the USSR, with four wins. The latest of these was, however, 21 years in the past, when a 1-0 win in Vienna had far from been enough to topple the Soviet Union in the qualification for the 1968 European Championships. The most recent encounter had been a 2-0 win for the Soviets in Tbilisi three and a half years earlier, with five home players remaining since then, whereas only Degeorgi and Weber had been among the visiting Austrians. The total head to head record read 6-2-4 17-13 in favour of tonight’s hosts.
Soviet Union (4-4-2)
|1 Rinat Dasayev (c)||31||Spartak Moskva|
|2 Valdas Ivanauskas||sub h-t||22||Žalgiris Vilnius|
|3 Vagiz Khidiatullin||29||Toulouse|
|4 Andrey Zygmantovich||25||Dinamo Minsk|
|5 Anatoly Demyanenko||29||Dinamo Kiev|
|6 Vasily Rats||27||Dinamo Kiev|
|7 Sergey Aleinikov||26||Dinamo Minsk|
|8 Gennady Litovchenko||25||Dinamo Kiev|
|9 Aleksandr Zavarov||27||Juventus|
|10 Oleg Protasov||sub 82′||24||Dinamo Kiev|
|11 Aleksey Mikhailichenko||25||Dinamo Kiev|
|12 Sergey Gorlukovich||on h-t||26||Lokomotiv Moskva|
|13 Aleksey Cherednik||28||Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk|
|14 Yuri Savichev||on 82′||23||Torpedo Moskva|
|15 Vladimir Lyuty||26||Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk|
|16 Viktor Chanov||29||Dinamo Kiev|
|1 Klaus Lindenberger||31||Swarovski Tirol|
|2 Kurt Russ||23||First Vienna|
|3 Josef Degeorgi||28||Austria Wien|
|4 Anton Pfeffer||90′||23||Austria Wien|
|5 Heribert Weber (c)||33||Rapid Wien|
|6 Manfred Zsak||23||Austria Wien|
|7 Christian Keglevits||27||Wiener SC|
|8 Peter Artner||58′||22||Admira Wacker|
|9 Toni Polster||24||Sevilla|
|10 Walter Hörmann||sub 62′||27||Austria Wien|
|11 Gerald Willfurth||25||Rapid Wien|
|12 Ernst Aigner||21||Admira Wacker|
|13 Gerald Glatzmayer||19||First Vienna|
|14 Andreas Herzog||on 62′||20||Rapid Wien|
|15 Peter Pacult||28||Swarovski Tirol|
|16 Franz Wohlfahrt||24||Austria Wien|
The giant Respublikansky stadium was clad in a festive mood despite the somewhat damp weather. There had been rain earlier in the afternoon, but at least this had seemed to disappear before the start of the game. However, there still appeared to a noticeable wind blowing down the length of the pitch, a wind which would seemingly favour the visitors for the first half. Conditions were hardly ideal, but any professional footballer would’ve been used to worse. The only thing which would’ve mattered to the home side’s forward duo of Oleg Protasov and Aleksandr Zavarov as they prepared to kick the game into life, would’ve been the two points at stake.
The Soviet Union would’ve wanted to have a good opening to the game in order to restore belief in the national side after two tame performances in Finland and Iceland. Right from kick-off, they appeared to try and let the ball do the work, shifting it between their players as if to let everyone have a touch or two, and so to calm any pre-match nerves which would have been underlying. However, there’s the conditions to master on a rain-sodden pitch, and early on a couple of their players, most notably the usually steady Sergey Aleinikov and also libero Vagiz Khidiatullin, seem to struggle somewhat in their control of the ball. The latter had been faulted for gifting Iceland the opening goal in their sole qualifier thus far, and should he remain first choice as libero, he could ill afford another below par performance. With Austria sitting deep in their compact 5-3-2 formation, any early Soviet mishaps would go unpunished.
Another home player who seemed to be hit by some early match nerves was the stylish Andrey Zygmantovich. He was in the side at the expense of the absent Oleg Kuznetsov, and unnecessarily he conceded an early right wing corner for Austria’s playmaker Walter Hörmann to swing right-footed into the box. Zygmantovich appeared to look after the visitors’ lethal striker Toni Polster when defending set-pieces, though on this occasion the Dinamo Minsk player missed his headed interception from Hörmann’s flag kick. Polster had lurked behind him, and he would take the ball down and aim a crisp half volley towards target. He just missed to the left of Dasayev’s goal as the ball rattled into the side netting. It had been an early scare from the away side, as their intentions already five-six minutes into the game seemed very clear: Drop deep with plenty of men behind the ball, and attempt to catch the hosts on the break. Another couple of minutes later, it would be Polster’s forward partner Christian Keglevits, making his first international appearance in more than four years, who would have an opportunistic effort after another break, though his wild left-footed effort from just outside of the penalty area cleared the Soviet captain’s goal by some margin.
Weber shows awareness early
In the opening exchanges, the game seemed a surprisingly open affair, possibly due to those hints of jitters among home players. There had been a couple of forward bursts by the Soviets, too, and libero Heribert Weber in the visitors’ camp had come to Austria’s rescue as early as in the fourth minute when Protasov had broken down the right and made his way into the area, looking to square the ball for Mikhailichenko, who was more or less free inside the box. Weber, however, still possessed a fine amount of pace, and he had been able to tackle the ball to safety.
In the home camp, players needed to settle sooner rather than later. They sought to reinstall confidence amongst themselves through their famous possession football, where elements of the ‘pass and move’ philosophy were very evident. For this particular fixture, Lobanovsky had sprung a couple of surprises. Firstly through the inclusion of wide player Valdas Ivanauskas from Žalgiris Vilnius. Ivanauskas was wearing the number 2 shirt, which had so often belonged to the elegant Vladimir Bessonov, but the latter was absent here in Kiev for whatever reason, and so the 22 year old from the Lithuanian republic had been given the responsibility of looking after the right hand side. And most of the right hand side appeared to be Ivanauskas’ playground. In fact, despite his low shirt number, he would be starting in something of a proxy position out wide, far from being a conventional full-back. In fact, the home side were opening the game without a right-sided defender, and with Ivanauskas in a midfield role. This was quite intricate stuff from the home side.
Further explanations to the Soviet first half tactics were needed. As expected, it was again Khidiatullin in the libero position. Immediately in front of him, he had not just the lanky Zygmantovich, but also the latter’s team mate from Minsk, the always reliable Sergey Aleinikov. It appeared that the three were forming a central defensive trio rather than just a duo consisting of Khidiatullin and Zygmantovich. Aleinikov was typically seen as a defensive midfielder, but on this occasion he was sitting deeper, and as it looked, something of a right-sided central defender. However, both Aleinikov and Zygmantovich, who were both very capable on the ball, were both instructed with licenses to move in the forward direction, and so the hosts not only had one or two central defenders with the ability to cross the halfway line, but three. These were interesting tactics. Was all of this in order to compensate for Kuznetsov’s absence? Yet all three had at various stages during the opening sequences revealed some jitters among themselves.
Dour early proceedings
Inside the opening quarter of an hour, the Austrians are perfectly happy to sit back and let the hosts maintain possession. They appear deep and compact, and they don’t start pressurising the home team’s players until they have crossed the halfway line. Another apparent feature is their wish to take the sting out of the game; Austria have little to gain from a high tempo affair. It is their belief that if they can restrict the hosts to minimum space and little scope, then they will stand a decent chance of causing an upset against an opponent which might be a little unsure of themselves after two recent struggles.
Austrian player tactics
Sitting deep in the libero role is 33 year old Heribert Weber, one of only two starters from Rapid Vienna. Weber, easily the more experienced among the visiting players, is wearing the captain’s armband, and he will have been the perfect father figure to the many youthful team mates that he has ahead of him in the pitch. As the central defensive pairing just in front of the libero, are Kurt Russ and Anton Pfeffer, both with limited international experience. They are, however, both enthusiastic players, and whereas Pfeffer, one of four from Rapid’s fierce rivals Austria Vienna, is keeping a watchful eye on Soviet goal ace Oleg Protasov, Russ, from the country’s oldest football club First Vienna, has no such prioritised tasks. Kurt Russ, one of several long-haired Austrians, will keep himself tied to the backline early on, but as the match progresses, he will even be seen passing the halfway line on a number of occasions. The reason for this is obviously the fact that Peter Artner, at 22 the youngest player in the visiting side, in the central, defensive midfield role is shadowing Aleksandr Zavarov. This sees Artner camped well inside his own half, with little intention of participating in possession or through runs into enemy territory. As long as the defensive midfielder’s constantly engaged in such battle, then that will naturally free up one of the central defenders, which in this case happens to be Russ. In only his fifth appearance wearing the national team jersey, the least capped visitor appeared to relish the challenge.
To the left in their five man defensive line is Josef Degeorgi, a seasoned pro, who, similar to 23 year old Manfred Zsak along the opposite flank, belongs to Austria Vienna. Whereas Degeorgi was a natural full-back, Zsak’s inclusion to the right in the backline would’ve come as something of a surprise. It is likely that Artner would’ve been pre-match favourite for the right-back slot, though as we’ve established already, he was busy making a nuisance of himself to the intricate Zavarov. Zsak was already making his 15th international appearance, but he was predominantly a midfielder. So why was it that Hickersberger had applied him in the right-sided defensive role? Zsak could’ve been identified as the perfect player to try and take the sting out of the Soviets’ typically dangerous left hand side, where Demyanenko and Rats so often combined well.
The rising star of the Austrian side was 20 year young playmaker Andy Herzog. He had made his first international start in their 4-2 defeat away to Czechoslovakia the previous month, having earlier only made a substitute cameo during a 2-2 friendly draw away to Greece (in April). However, there was no Herzog in the starting eleven on this occasion. He would’ve slotted into the left-sided position among the midfield three had he begun the party, though as it were, this role had instead gone to a more experienced campaigner in the diminutive Walter Hörmann. Hörmann was capable with both feet, and it could well be that he was considered to be stronger defensively than Herzog, and that this could’ve been the reason for Hickersberger picking him over the Rapid Vienna starlet. Across central midfield, to the right in their triumvirate, was the energetic Gerald Willfurth, who would play an important role along with right-back Zsak in trying to dent the Soviets’ bursts along their left. Willfurth boasted greater physique than Hörmann, and seemed to be the busier player of the two advanced midfielders as the hosts continued to dominate possession.
More on Soviet player roles
The first shot on target comes around the 13 minute mark, when Soviet Union midfielder Gennady Litovchenko decides to have a pop from all of 30 yards, a shot which the colourful Lindenberger is easily equal to as he gathers it comfortably in his grasp. Litovchenko, one of five starting players based here in Kiev, has typically been seen along the right hand side of midfield, the role which he had kept during their 1-1 draw in Iceland, where he had scored the leveller. Seemingly one of Lobanovsky’s favoured players, Litovchenko was a driving force on the ball: He might not have had an abundance of pace in him, but his impeccable energy seemed to always drive him on, and he was never afraid to take a man on. He’d met little resistance in the centre of the pitch as he’d decided to test his shooting boot. With Ivanauskas camped along the right, Litovchenko had on this occasion been moved inside and into a central midfield role, playing just behind his Dinamo Kiev team mate Mikhailichenko. The number of changes that Lobanovsky had applied for this fixture clearly revealed how he had been displeased with their performances since the European Championships.
Another hugely vital cog in the Soviet select was Anatoly Demyanenko, who on this occasion was a feature at left-back, probably his favoured role of the two full-back positions, despite the fact that he was predominantly a right-footed player. Demyanenko had so often captained the side, an honour which tonight had gone to goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev, and playing with Vasily Rats ahead of him in the left-sided midfield position, Demyanenko would so often seek to combine his way up the pitch. The understanding between him and Rats seemed a natural ingredient in the Soviets’ play. It is also worth noticing that Demyanenko was the USSR’s only starting full-back, as Ivanauskas along the opposite flank was positioned in a much more advanced role. This gave the Soviet formation something of a leaning look, and during the first half, more of their play would be centered towards the left than the right, unsurprisingly.
As mentioned, Aleksey Mikhailichenko was operating in the centre just ahead of Litovchenko. Having played such a pivotal role during the Soviet Union’s Olympic tournament triumph, he appeared to have won back his confidence after two rather shoddy performances since the European Championships. The tall, fairly lean midfielder, who was only winning his 15th cap today, seemed a much more natural fit in an advanced midfield role rather than one in which he needed to be a defensive playmaker. He would be utilising his strengths on and off the ball to be a menace to the Austrians, as he at times appeared as a third forward. Mikhailichenko also seemed to be the greatest aerial threat to the visitors, so often timing his flighted challenges well. Midway through the first half, he beats Toni Polster to the ball deep inside the Austrian penalty area, though Lindenberger is able to get his body behind the ball and hold comfortably.
Soviets on top but lacking in creativity
After something of a nervy start, the hosts were gathering pace as the first half wore on. Not that they were setting the gigantic Respublikansky stadium alight; the Austrian defensive compactness saw to that they couldn’t. However, they were exerting solid dominance, and it seemed as they were pegging the visitors further and further back. Yet there was this lack of passing accuracy at times which made sure that their endeavour left no heavy impact on the away team. And perhaps were they not quite coming to terms with the tactical dispositions which the manager had implied for the evening? A couple of minutes after Mikhailichenko’s header comes yet another effort from distance through Litovchenko, though the midfielder can not get any conviction whatsoever behind his shot, and the ball rolls feebly into the expectant arms of Klaus Lindenberger.
Aleksandr Zavarov, one of the two Soviet players who has left to further their careers abroad, is back in the stadium where he’s been so many times before, both for club and country. Zavarov at times is a footballing genius with the way he can thread a pass, and the 27 year old now based in Italy needs to be carefully attended to. The visitors have one man earmarked for the task: defensive midfielder Peter Artner. Zavarov does not appear best pleased when looked after in such a manner, and the pair will be seen scrapping off the ball on a couple of occasions. The Juventus ace likes to drop deep and into an advanced midfield position, though success will be scant during the opening 45 in Kiev. Artner’s clearly doing a good job in tracking Zavarov, and this also affects Oleg Protasov in the more advanced striker’s position. So often thriving on the kind of passes which he receives from Zavarov, goal ace Protasov on this occasion at times cuts something of an isolated figure, and he too is under surveillanceship from the visitors as he has the rugged Anton Pfeffer to deal with. Despite boasting some pace, Protasov is unable to leave his print on this first half.
Weber’s left side bias
It is clearly the wish of the visitors to try and compress Soviet play through the centre, where Austria are massively compact and obviously difficult to penetrate. Ivanauskas along the right is almost out of work, and there is also not a whole lot going on along the left hand side, where Demyanenko and Rats are kept quiet by Willfurth and Zsak’s combined efforts. Kurt Russ also at times orientates himself into this territory defensively, whilst it should be noted that libero Weber often has a bias towards the left of centre in his covering duty. The skipper sees fit to mop up behind left-back Degeorgi on a couple of occasions, something which could be a result of either Degeorgi keeping close watch on Ivanauskas, or the fact that left-sided central midfielder Hörmann was less dutiful in his defensive work than Willfurth opposite.
Home crowd uneasy
After the half hour mark, there’s scant whistling heard from sections of the crowd. This is because their heros are yet unable to find a way through the visitors’ defence, and probably because the visitors have been able to kill most of the pace in the game so far. Possession count sees the USSR strongly on top, but this alone doesn’t win you football matches. Despite both Mikhailichenko and Zavarov in attacking roles, the Soviet Union are unable to fire on all cylinders, as the physically strong Austrians are doing a tidy job in denying them space. Ivanauskas is the next player to have a go from distance, though his left-footed effort from the boundary of the penalty box on 35 minutes clears the crossbar by a country mile.
Mikhailichenko has ‘goal’ ruled out
Five minutes from the interval sees the net bulge behind Lindenberger, but the whistle had already gone as Mikhailichenko had proceeded to fire home left-footed. The attacking midfielder had been penalised for a foul on Weber after Khidiatullin’s long ball up from the back. Mikhailichenko had gone into the aerial challenge inside the penalty area D unfairly, and though he had won control of the ball and put the ball in the back of the net in the next sequence, there was no way the referee would let it stand. Still, could it not be that the so far gapless Austrian defensive no longer seemed so watertight? They had been pushed back deep for most of the half, and the relentless waves of Soviet attacks coming to them must have been a huge mental, as well as physical, challenge. Even Ivanauskas along the right would manage to get a couple of crosses into the box during the last five minutes of the opening half. However, there would be no score by the time that Larsson blew his whistle one last time in the opening 45 minutes. 0-0 was a credit to Austrian tactics.
For the start of the second period, the hosts have made a change. Lobanovsky’s probably realised the lack of right hand side activity, and so he’s brought off debutant Ivanauskas who had been playing in that advanced position, with no designated right-back behind him. On for the Žalgiris man came another debutant in the shape of Lokomotiv Moscow defender Sergey Gorlukovich. He was already 26, Gorlukovich, but he had had a sound tournament for the Olympic select, and this had been rewarded with a place on the bench for the full international side. The right-footed, fair haired defender had been the Soviet libero in Seoul, but here he would be introduced as a right-back, and so it meant that Lobanovsky would revert back to a more customary 4-4-2 formation than the one which he had been deploying for the first half.
USSR’s change of shape
Early second half progress would confirm initial belief, namely that Litovchenko had been moved back out wide right, into his favoured position, as there was no Ivanauskas occupying this territory. Aleinikov would move back into central midfield after the experiment with three central defenders in the first period, as the Soviets would’ve felt comfortable that the visitors were unlikely to open up and go all out attack. Zygmantovich and Khidiatullin, after some dodgy early moments, had both raised their game, and they were keeping Polster and Keglevits quiet. Aleinikov had had a sedate first 45 minutes, and reverting him back into his usual defensive midfield position could’ve seen to him waking up from his light slumber. Back in a familiar set-up, the Soviets looked much more comfortable, and they would move in front almost immediately.
Mikhailichenko bag early goal!
37 seconds after Austria get the second half under way through strikers Polster and Keglevits, the ball whistles into the net behind Klaus Lindenberger. It won’t take the hosts long to win back possession, and they go direct through Litovchenko from a right-back position, who aims for Protasov just over halfway inside the Austrians’ half, and who will flick the ball on for the on-rushing Mikhailichenko. However, the visitors appear to have weathered the hosts’ initial attack, but when Zsak fails to clear the ball far, his header only finds Demyanenko, the Soviet left-back can make progress along the left and play it inside for Rats. The wide midfielder in turn lifts the ball in the direction of Zavarov, who gets a flicked header backwards from the edge of the six yard box, just ahead of Weber, and into the path of Mikhailichenko. The goal thriving midfielder had been left completely unmarked in the centre, and he proceeded to guide the ball high into the back of the net with his head for 1-0. Instant second half impact!
Left hand side potency
For all their possession in the first half, the Soviet Union had failed to create decent goalscoring opportunities. Now, after less than a minute’s play in the second half, they were already a goal to the good after some persistent play along the left. It was little surprise that danger would come through Demyanenko and Rats, and Zsak had made a woeful clearance with his head to gift the hosts this opportunity. So what next? Surely, with so much time still left for play, there was no way that the visitors would abandon their defensive shape immediately. However, there was every reason to believe that this would lead to even greater dominance from the hosts, who were well capable of putting any opponent to the sword on their day. Now back in their familiar 4-4-2, they could relax and regain their rhythm, which had at times been lost during the first half.
How would Austria respond?
It is not as if Austria has any kind of immediate positive response to the Soviet goal. The early goal must’ve come as something of a shock to them, as they had with a certain degree of comfortability rebuked the Soviet offence during the first 45. However, there had been signs towards the end of the first half that their defence had not been made of impenetrable material after all, and so the goal must’ve brought with it a level of scepticism: Did they not stand a chance of being ran riot if they continued to concede possession like they had been doing up until now? With a big absence of experience throughout their line-up, they would’ve needed parental guiding from the touchline, where Josef Hickersberger was beginning to look uneasy under his funny looking winter hat. Kiev looked chilly this October evening.
The Austrian midfield had been set up in order to be destructive rather than creative. Anchor man Artner was still preoccupied with Zavarov, so it was still up to central defender Russ to add to numbers inside the hosts’ half, and he seemed a willing participant, did Russ. Perhaps was elegance a lacking feature in how he managed to bring the ball into Soviet territory, but he progressed despite near-tumbles and uneasy close control, and on one occasion he got into a crossing position from the right, almost finding Polster’s head in the centre of the area. However, despite his aerial threat, the Sevilla striker could not get a touch. Both Zygmantovich and Khidiatullin were coping well with airborne balls into the penalty area. Not that such threats were numerous.
Hörmann’s influence had been limited to him hitting set-pieces into the penalty area, most notably right wing corners. He had been unable to assert himself on proceedings in open play, but neither Austrian tactics nor the slick pitch seemed to favour him a great deal. Across midfield, Willfurth had never stopped running, but most of his energy had been spent off the ball aiding full-back Zsak defensively. As a total, there had not been sufficient player funds making attacking contribution in the visitors’ camp. With the progress of the second half, they would have to make some sort of adjustment to their tactics, at least if they were to try and find a way to get back on to level terms. Was there a ‘plan B’ in Pepi’s locker?
Peter Artner seemingly had little interest in releasing any of the iron grip which he was holding on Aleksandr Zavarov. The pair had clashed several times during the opening half, and it would continue along the same pattern after the break. It came as little surprise that Artner’s name would be the first to be taken by the referee. 13 minutes into the second half, Swede Larsson shows the 22 year old the yellow card after another foul on the Juventus star. Only moments earlier, Zavarov had been seen lying on the deck after another altercation, and even Lobanovsky had got to his feet and approached the touchline, aiming his finger dictatorially in the direction of the Austrian man marker. Had there been a punch? Litovchenko’s seen racing towards the linesman on the near side, and he appears to tell the referee’s assistant to open his eyes and pay attention to what’s going on.
Further opportunites for the hosts
The hosts continue to run the show. Mikhailichenko’s bossing the midfield, and with all the fine ball players that the hosts have scattered around the pitch in various positions, the Austrians find it very difficult to gain any sort of momentum. They are clearly second best, and so any attacking effort comes through aiming balls in the direction of the forward duo for Polster and Keglevits to muster something on their own. There’s a strike on target from Litovchenko again after the free-kick which had come about through Artner’s misdemeanour which had led to the booking. Two minutes later, it is Zavarov who prods at goal from just inside the penalty area, but it is an effort with no power as he had just rode a challenge, and Lindenberger has no problems catching, like he had equally confidently caught Litovchenko’s low free-kick effort. 18 minutes into the second half, the Austrian goalkeeper is almost caught out from a quickly dispatched free-kick by Khidiatullin, who tries to flight the ball into the top corner from just outside the penalty area. The ‘keeper recovers to push the ball onto the bar, and though Protasov is first to the rebound, the opportunity’s gone as the striker’s out wide and almost by the touchline. He will play in Zavarov for the playmaker to have a poor left-footed effort skewed well wide.
Starlet Herzog on
The USSR had seemingly upped the pace, and they were threatening to extend their lead. Just before Khidiatullin’s free-kick, Hickersberger had relieved Hörmann from his duties as Andreas Herzog had been brought on. Hörmann had not had a great afternoon, and the presence of Herzog could surely not make matters any worse. However, in these surroundings it was too much to ask from him to help the visitors raise their game and be something of a threat to the Soviet Union. Herzog would slot directly into Hörmann’s centre left midfield position, but at least he would look more comfortable than the man he had replaced. His close control appeared to be of a different level.
The Soviet Union inevitably increase their lead
Libero Khidiatullin was a big improvement since the Iceland match, and he confidently participated in attacking build-ups as the second half progressed. He would seem increasingly assured as the Soviets were starting to display some of the ‘total football’ which Lobanovsky had instilled in this team. They had players very well capable of changing positions and contributing from most areas of the pitch. They certainly benefitted from having players so confident on the ball throughout the team. When they made the ball do the work and the Austrians run in between, it all became too much for the visitors, who seemed to have little in terms of response. It came as no surprise when the hosts scored their second by the halfway stage in the second half. Keglevits had been unable to keep possession out by the left hand touchline inside his own half, with Aleinikov breathing down his neck, and the ball would find its way through to Gorlukovich along the right for the hosts. His low ball into the area for Protasov saw a back heel from the striker, and when Degeorgi attempted to intervene, the left-back could only tackle the ball into the direction of Zavarov, who was on hand to poke the ball beyond Lindenberger with his left foot from close range. It was sweet revenge for the forward, who had been given little chance to shine until then. 2-0, and the Austrians needed to be aware so they did not go down to a heavy scoreline. The Soviets were looking menacing at this point.
After their second goal, the Soviet Union appear to take their foot off the gas somewhat, and this allows the Austrians to finally have some moments’ relative peace, where they can stroke the ball around between themselves, at least inside their own half. There is also slightly more leeway for their players when entering the Soviet half of the pitch, as they’re no longer at this point exposed to the same extreme level of pressure from the home players, something which will see the visitors have two strikes on target within three minutes of each other through Polster and Zsak. Neither effort leaves the ground, and neither effort troubles Dasayev the least. There is also a reminder for the Austrians that they need to be defensively alert when Litovchenko, through some good individual work, manoeuvres himself into a shooting position from just over 20 yards. It takes a low parry to his left from Lindenberger to keep the stern drive out. With less than 15 minutes left for play, the game looks out of reach for Austria, who have yet to duly worry the great Dasayev.
Hosts’ lead so deserved
As the game enters its final phase, tempo has slowed down. The hosts are well in control, and Austria appear to have given up. If there had been a ‘plan B’ in Hickersberger’s mind, it had not come to fruition. Yes, Herzog had looked a step up from Hörmann whom he replaced, but collectively the substitution had not been able to give Austria much of a lift. They had been second best throughout, and certainly during a second half which had been a demonstration of supremacy from the Soviet team. After a somewhat hesitant opening 45, they had raised their game after the break, when Mikhailichenko’s early break through certainly had helped lifting any amount of exessive load off their shoulders. Post 1-0, the USSR had been able to revert to playing with confidence and flow, and their performance had not only coincided with Lobanovsky’s return to the bench after the manager had missed the two previous matches in the wake of the European Championships, but also with the switch back to their customary 4-4-2 for the start of the second half. Individually and collectively, the Soviets looked superior. And it was hardly a surprise.
Another Soviet debutant
One player who had failed to ignite had been striker Oleg Protasov, who had been shadowed by the burly figure of Anton Pfeffer all game. He had been left to a single effort on target, a second half shot from outside the area which Klaus Lindenberger had been equal to. Eight minutes from time, the ace goalscorer was replaced by Yuri Savichev, another one of the heros from the Olympic football tournament. Savichev, also based in Moscow, plying his trade with Torpedo, would be the third Soviet man to win his first cap tonight.
The game had gone somewhat stale after the second Soviet goal. The hosts had perhaps not been right at the top of their potential, but their performance had still been too much for the visitors to handle. Austria, on the other hand, knew they would be returning home empty handed once Mikhailichenko had opened the scoring. For them, the second half was more about damage limitation. To be leaving having ‘just’ conceded twice still saw them return back home with some pride intact. Had they thrown caution to the wind, it could have been nasty as the home side would’ve punished their defensive gaps. Counter-attacking was far from beyond the Soviets.
Late second yellow
There was time for a late yellow card, only the second of the match, as Pfeffer scythed down substitute Savichev between the penalty area and the Soviets’ right wing corner flag. It was quite unnecessary, and probably just as much the result of frustration as anything else. After Protasov had departed to be replaced by debutant Savichev, Pfeffer had just shifted focus from the substituted striker to the newcomer. Savichev had threatened to get to the right wing byline after taking the ball past his marker with his first touch, but he had been caught in his track by the back chasing stopper, who clumsily brought him to the ground. From the ensuing set-piece, Litovchenko’s free-kick, Mikhailichenko got to the ball just ahead of Lindenberger, who appeared to get a couple of fingertips to the midfielder’s header, and so the hosts would win an injury time corner. However, before the right-sided wide midfielder had time to swing the ball into the area, the referee blew his whistle for full time: 2-0.
The hosts had perhaps opened a bit jittery, but they would soon get into their stride and pin the visitors back deep inside their half, something which had seemed to be Austria’s game plan anyway: Sit deep and frustrate the home side and not least the home supporters. The visitors had succeeded during the first half, where they had restricted the hosts to some long distance attempts. Mikhailichenko did get the ball in the back of the net, but the whistle had already sounded as he had impeded Weber moments before finishing. After the break, Mikhailichenko got one which did count, however, and from then on there was no looking back for the hosts. They would turn the screw on the Austrians, who would never recover. Halfway through the second half, the hosts scored their second through Zavarov, and it was just reward for the way the Soviets were tearing into the visitors. The final 20 minutes were of less tempo, though, and Austria could just about return back home with a half respectable scoreline after all.
1 Dasayev 6.7
difficult to judge on an evening where he’s very rarely worked
2 Ivanauskas 6.2
only appears to begin striking up an understanding with the rest of the team during the final five minutes of the first half. Until then, he’s a misfit, both individually and collectively
(12 Gorlukovich 6.9
positive debut along the right defensive flank. Shows some aerial quality)
3 Khidiatullin 7.0
after his poor showing in Iceland, he redeemed himself through a defensively impeccable performance
4 Zygmantovich 7.0
confident on the ball, at times troubled with Polster in the air, but dominating Keglevits when needed
5 Demyanenko 7.0
much improved performance since Reykjavik, and played a part in the opening goal. Piston work along the left with Rats as usual
6 Rats 6.8
less active along the left than Demyanenko, though played his part in the first goal
7 Aleinikov 6.8
struggled with the slippery surface at times, but assured in his traditional deep midfield role second half
8 Litovchenko 7.2
terrific engine, and a better second half performance in his customary wide role
9 Zavarov 6.9
got a poked goal as reward for tireless work, though always found his marker Artner a tough nut to crack
10 Protasov 6.6
committed and dynamic, but can’t shake Pfeffer off
(14 Savichev –
not much time to make an impact, though got a yellow out of Pfeffer after a fine run along the right)
11 Mikhailichenko 7.3
a ‘man of the match’ performance: fine headed goal and a driving midfield force at times
1 Lindenberger 7.0
definitely not to blame for the loss, and makes a couple of fine saves
2 Russ 6.9
accepted a whole lot of responsibility, even if he’s hardly a graceful player on the ball
3 Degeorgi 6.8
kept Ivanauskas quiet, though struggled more after the break when up against both Litovchenko and Gorlukovich
4 Pfeffer 7.1
steady marking job on the fearsome Protasov, and deservedly booked late on for taking his frustration out on Savichev
5 Weber 7.0
vital at the back with his massive experience
6 Zsak 6.8
full of commitment, but right-back hardly his ideal position. Used his physique to his advantage on a couple of occasions
7 Keglevits 6.3
always on the move, but not enough quality
8 Artner 6.8
big battle with Zavarov, and fully committed to the cause. Earnt his yellow
9 Polster 6.9
a big presence up top, and showed some flexibility through movement. Not a goal threat
10 Hörmann 6.2
no attacking influence whatsoever from his playmaking midfield role
(14 Herzog 6.8
not a whole lot involved, but appears much more confident than his predecessor)
11 Willfurth 6.8
went through an awful lot of running, and needed to be alert in order to prevent the Soviet left hand side to excel