Dynamo Kiev looked bewildered. Rubin looked delighted. Yuri Semin complained that "the whole team played poorly" whilst Kurban Berdyev looked to the heavens, "thank god everything went well."
The 2-0 win that Rubin gained in Kiev last night gives them an early and unexpected advantage in this two legged Champions League qualifying tie. Prior to the match, pundits, experts and even players from both sides had called it a 50-50 clash, seemingly unable to separate the two well matched squads. That notion was blown away six minutes into the match as Rubin's Christian Noboa, shaking off any Copa America induced fatigue, slid the ball delicately through the legs of the hapless Pape Diakathe and crossed for Alan Kasaev to plug the ball into the net.
To say Dynamo never recovered would be to deny Rubin's goalkeeper Ryzhikov an excellent performance that well deserved his clean sheet. With the score still at 1-0, Dynamo ramped up their attacking intent. Yarmolenko flashed a drive towards goal, Gusev attempted an audacious bicycle kick and Papa Diakathe tried to place the ball in from close range. The common denominator in these attacking efforts was the swift and sure reflexes of Ryzhikov who rose high, stooped low and stretched wide to prevent the ball from landing in the back of his net. The one time he was beaten, the woodwork remained defiant to send Ognjen Vukojević's crashing drive back from whence it came. Gandalf would have been proud.
Semin's misery and evident disgust with his team's performance was added to as, right on cue with each of Dynamo's misses, the camera switched to the Dynamo bench where three outcast musketeers, Andriy Shevchenko, Artem Milevskiy and Oleksandr Aliyev looked forlornly at both Semin and the pitch. The manager's decision to leave these three key players on the bench in favour of new arrivals Lukman Haruna and Ideye Brown will allow questions to be asked. Questions that would have been banished to the back of fans' and journalists' minds if Dynamo had triumphed.
The contrast in the performance of the two sides was complemented throughout the match by the decisions of the two managers. Where Semin left it seemingly too late to send in the cavalry of Milevskiy, Aliyev and Ninkovic - leaving Shevchenko out altogether - Berdyev's substitutes, however, appeared to come at the right time to aid the team. He plunged the experienced striker Aleksey Medvedev into the fray on sixty minutes and less than eight minutes later the thirty-four year old had used his guile and craft to earn his side a penalty, after being hauled down by another hapless Dynamo defender in Evgen Khacheridi. Bibras Natcho slotted the penalty away with the same ease that Noboa had sliced through the Dynamo defence in the first half. Game, and quite possibly tie, over.
Berdyev won the managerial battle; overcoming a raft of injuries to first team players - including Cesar Navas and Carlos Eduardo - travelling to the historic Valeriy Lobanovskiy stadium and pinching two away goals and a clean sheet. Semin, meanwhile, troops back to the drawing board with his down but not wholly out team. Don't be surprised if you see those three outcast musketeers in the starting line-up for that all important second leg next Wednesday.