On This Day: Prudnikov scores on his RPL debut for Spartak

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On 8 April 2007, Spartak Moscow striker Aleksandr Prudnikov played in the Russian Premier Liga for the first time and brought the Red and Whites victory over Luch Energiya Vladivostok.

Almost a year earlier, the forward had become a European champion with the Russian youth national team, the first victory at this level in 21 years. Head coach Igor Kolyvanov always called Prudnikov one of the leaders of that team. Although the youngster didn’t score in the group stage, he hit the winner against Germany in the semi-final after coming on as a substitute. In the final against the Czechs, the Spartak pupil broke the deadlock, got injured, but finished the match and scored a penalty in the shootout.

After the tournament Prudnikov was ambitious. "Yes, we have achieved a lot as a team,” he told Sovetsky Sport, “but I can't imagine anything by myself yet. I haven’t even scored for Spartak II yet, and I’ve never trained with the main squad. If you stop there, tomorrow no one will remember that there was such a football player Prudnikov."

At the beginning of 2007, Prudnikov was already training with Spartak’s first team. Vladimir Fedotov gave openings to many academy products during his career, such as Roman Shishkin, Dmitry Torbinsky and Alexey Rebko, and handed Artem Dzyuba his debut.

In the European champion the coach also saw good prospects, but was in no hurry to use them. At the start of the season, instead of the injured Roman Pavlyuchenko, Dzyuba played more often in the starting XI while Prudnikov sat on the bench.

Fedotov decided to release the 18-year-old forward in a home match with Luch Energiya. The day before, he had scored twice for the second team. Having earlier scored in a 2-1 Russian Cup quarter-final win over Zenit, Dzyuba couldn’t repeat his success in the championship and gave way to Prudnikov in the 77th minute. At that point, the teams were level thanks to Yegor Titov cancelling out Aleksey Ivanov's opener.

"We needed a powerful forward, so we set up Sasha to fight in the penalty area," explained Fedotov. Prudnikov complied with his manager’s request and scored the winning goal in this style in the 87th minute. He dedicated the goal to his father who had died when Aleksandr was 10 years old.

Just like after winning the Euros, the forward did not dwell on his success. "It's nice, of course, that I managed to score the winning goal, but I would like to do so without loud words,” the Spartak player told Sport-Express. “After all, this victory was earned by the entire team. I didn't go to the mixed zone under the stands because I didn't want to inflate my ego.”

At the same time, he admitted that it was the most important goal in his still young career. "Previously, the main goals for me were those scored for the Russian youth team, but now I have risen to a higher professional level. In general, I hope that my most important goals are ahead of me."

Prudnikov scored one of those goals 10 days later in the return game against Zenit in the Russian Cup, a 1-1 draw that helped Spartak reach the semi-finals. However, when Pavlyuchenko returned, the young forward played less often in the starting lineup. Over the next year and a half, he scored three goals in the RPL, two of them in games against Luch.

The forward played his last league match for the red-whites on 22 November 2008, after which the club sent the player on loan five times. Prudnikov finally left Spartak permanently in the summer of 2012, and has since scored twice against his former team, playing for Rubin (2014) and Amkar (2015).

Photo: Soccer.ru


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