Dinamo Moscow v CSKA Moscow, Sunday 16th May 2021, 2pm.

The top two divisions in Russia concluded their league programmes this weekend and as I’ve not seen a derby fixture yet I thought I’d better get along to the Premier League finale at the Lev Yashin stadium. I’ve been to see Dinamo at home a couple of times previously and it’s an easy fixture with the metro stopping right outside of the ground.

It’s also handy for visiting somewhere on the way as there is a change of line close to the centre that makes popping above ground an easy option. This time Jen and I called in at Red Square, intending to have a look around inside the Kremlin. The square itself was a lot quieter than usual, maybe as a result of it being early Sunday morning, but more likely due to fewer foreign tourists being in town.

There’s always something going on though and whereas last time there was an ice skating rink blocking the views of the historic buildings this time it was the stage for a concert being erected. If there is ever a time when it is empty then I’m tempted to turn up at about 5am to try and get the place to myself.

As Jen and I walked towards the Historical Museum at the top end we noticed that the doors to Lenin’s Mausoleum were open and people were heading in. Previously it hadn’t opened on Sundays but maybe they have changed the hours for the summer. There was a queue at the far end of Red Square and so we joined that. Half an hour later we had passed through the scanner and we were into the Mausoleum grounds. There are a few monuments to other unknown fellas, but they didn’t detain us for long and we were soon inside the chilled and badly lit building.

Jen had done a bit of checking and she reckons that there are five dead leaders with their bodies on show to the public. Apart from Lenin there are the two Kims in North Korea, some south american bloke and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. We saw what was left of Mr. Minh when visiting Hanoi a few years ago and so if we were to start ‘collecting’ embalmed leaders then today would take us to forty per cent along the route to completion.

As you might expect no photography was allowed, but there are plenty on the internet. Jen reckoned that his right eye looked a bit ropey and his fingers had a brown tinge to them. Maybe he had been creosoting a fence in his final days. I thought he looked just like Sean Dyche, but more serene and without the mental scars from that Chesterfield semi-final. Overall though he was in decent nick considering his circumstances. I know people still alive who look rougher.

On the way out we were directed past busts of other important dead people. I recognized the fellas from the eighties, but nobody before apart from Stalin. He had extra flowers on his marble base, so is clearly still fondly remembered by some people in these parts. I understand the belief that things were better in the olden days, we get plenty of that in the UK and there is still a certain nostalgia for the CCCP even among Russians too young to remember it, but come on, Stalin? Really?

As we were back at the bottom end of Red square we decided it was probably a good time to have a look inside St. Basil’s Cathedral. That’s the famous one you always see on the telly and currently obscured by concert scaffolding as above. It was a tenner for foreigners to get in and a fiver for locals. Fair enough. If you can afford to be travelling around you can subsidise the locals.

As we went in we passed a group of worshippers singing away in a side room with an altar. I doubt that they had paid and I was a little surprised that we were allowed to mosey around at the same time as a service was taking place, I don’t think that it would have been too difficult to limit admission to those times outside of services. The cathedral was actually four churches inside the same building with each in different states of repair or restoration. Some were pretty fancy.

Other areas seemed to be partially restored, whilst some areas had been painted over with a fake brickwork pattern. Who would think that is a good idea? Just leave whatever was there previously and then restore that if you want, but don’t add another layer of nonsense that will also no doubt be removed at some point.

With the culture done we had some lunch before heading to the stadium. I don’t really care what I eat and the place that was handy turned out to be a Jamie’s Italian. I though Mr. Oliver had gone bust and if our lunch was typical of what he does elsewhere then I’m not surprised. I can forgive my pizza being cold and the tv screens that showed him and the old bloke he worked with sticking their fingers in every thing they cooked. What was just about unbearable though was the same crap Ed Sheeran song being played on a loop non-stop. The same song. Once was bad enough but we had to listen to it all the way through our lunch. Jen had a theory that the management must have been trying to get their staff to quit. I certainly wouldn’t have lasted a day if it had been me, one lunchtime was enough.

After scoffing our lunch as quickly as we could we took the metro to the ground. It was busier than previously with a lot more police. I suppose with it being a Moscow derby that could be expected. Lots of the fans were dressed in black, particularly those from CSKA, with many of them sporting the Stone Island gear that I’m told suggests that they might be up for a bit of trouble.

We had quite posh seats for this game. Previously I’ve been in the upper tier but by the time I got around to buying tickets all that were left were tier two seats at forty five quid. We shared an entrance with people in executive boxes but that’s as posh as it got, although I suppose the concourse was less crowded.

Visitors CSKA had to win if they were to have a chance of a top four European spot, albeit in the new third tier UEFA Conference competition. Even then they needed results for the two teams above them to go their way. Dinamo had nothing to play for apart from local bragging rights and I did wonder whether they might mentally already be on their holidays.

It seemed as if I’d called it right when CKSA took the lead in the first half. The goal revealed just how many of their fans were located outside of the designated area behind the goal. They wouldn’t have got away with celebrating like that at many English grounds.

The atmosphere in general was very good, with both fans having singing sections behind the goal and the twelve thousand attendance around double that I’d previously experienced under covid restrictions. As there were only a handful of tickets left a week before the game I assume that the game had sold out.

With results elsewhere favourable to CKSA it looked for a while like their European dream might be on. Dinamo were keen to make a game of it though and equalized in the second half before quickly taking the lead.

CKSA levelled late on but when pushing for the winner conceded a third to end their hopes. The loss left them in sixth and free to do whatever they like on Thursday nights next season. Maybe there is a Russian version of The Bill for them to watch. The win for Dinamo brought them level on points with their local rivals but also outside of the European spots.

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