On This Day: Shirokov's RPL first goal brings Saturn victory

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On 16 April 2005, Roman Shirokov scored for the first time in a Russian Premier Liga match, and in doing so helped his Saturn Ramenskoe side beat Alania Vladikavkaz at home.

The CSKA Moscow graduate had made his debut at the highest level of Russian football back in July 2001, coming on as a 69th-minute substitute for Torpedo-ZIL against Lokomotiv Moscow. That day he ended up on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing.

After the formation of the RPL, Shirokov played in the amateur leagues and the third-tier Professional Football League, but top flight clubs invited him on trial, such as Dynamo Moscow in 2004. "I trained in Novogorsk for two weeks," the player recalled in an interview with Sport-Express in 2008. “Bondarenko was ready to sign a contract, but Romantsev was against it. He said that he would find a stronger player for this position. In the winter, Dynamo bought Danny."

That same winter Shirokov became a Saturn player. The Ramenskoye club had looked at the midfielder back in 2004, when the manager was Boris Ignatyev. "I liked Shirokov," Aleksandr Tarkhanov, who worked at the team's headquarters, told SE in 2015. “He had a good brain, was great with the ball and quick to make decisions. He can set teammates up and score himself. But for some reason Petrovich wasn’t convinced. He said, ‘Not so fast.’ And Shirokov went back to FC Vidnoye.”

While Shirokov finished the season in the PFL, Ignatyev was fired, and after the end of the championship was replaced by Tarkhanov who again called the player. The coach recalled their collaboration with pleasure and did not hesitate when journalists asked about the difficult character of the player.

"It was very easy for me with him. Apparently, I know how to work with such people, I can find an approach to them. Shirokov should be given freedom on the pitch," Tarkhanov told the weekly publication Football in 2014.

On his debut for Saturn, the player thanked the coach with a goal. The team won the first match of the last-16 Russian Cup clash against FC Rostov 2-1, and then went through to the quarter-finals where they lost to CSKA Moscow. In the RPL, Tarkhanov also put Shirokov in the starting lineup: in the opening three rounds, the team earned seven points and took second place in the table after Zenit St. Petersburg.

The midfielder started the next match on the bench and only came on in the 57th minute as Saturn lost 1-0 to Dynamo. Shirokov returned to the starting XI for the meeting with Alania and scored his first RPL goal in the 11th minute. The team won 3-1 and moved up to fourth place.

However, after six rounds Saturn dropped to 12th, Tarkhanov lost his job, and was replaced by Vladimir Shevchuk. "The first thing he said after replacing Tarkhanov: ‘Daddy's gone - you're finished.’ He paused and grinned. ‘I’m joking; I need you,’" Shirokov told SE. Until autumn the midfielder was kept in the team, but then spent the end of the year with the reserves due to a conflict with the manager before moving to Rubin in the winter.

Two years later, he was offered a chance to return to Ramenskoye after a season for FC Khimki, where he had scored seven goals in 27 RPL matches. "Spartak and Saturn called,” Shirokov recalled. “Cherchesov was ‘for’, but the leaders made inquiries and thought for a long time. And Zenit quickly got their bearings.

“To be honest, at first I was inclined towards the Spartak option. First of all, my dad was a fan of Spartak. Secondly, I didn't want to leave Moscow. Thirdly, I thought their team was closer to me in terms of the game."

Shirokov went to St. Petersburg, where he became a player of the Russian national team, the holder of two European trophies and a two-time national champion. He scored his first goal for Zenit three years after his RPL debut  - and at the same venue, Saturn Stadium - on 19 April 2008.


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