"Ilya took a lot from Akinfeev." Pomazun leaves CSKA and starts keeping goal for Ural

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The 24-year-old goalkeeper went to Ekaterinburg on loan before the start of the season and has become one of Ural’s main heroes of the opening four matchdays.

Ilya is the second keeper in the family dynasty. His father, Aleksandr Pomazun, won the 1990 European Youth Championship and came third at the 1991 World Youth Championship as a member of the USSR national team, and at club level took the championship with Spartak in 1993. After leaving the Red-Whites in 1994, he played for nine clubs and finished his career after the 2008 season. Now he trains goalkeepers at Khimik-Arsenal in the PFL.

Ilya was born in 1996 in Kaliningrad, when his father was playing there for Baltika. Two years later, the family moved to Moscow as Aleksandr joined Torpedo-ZIL. His son later entered the same club’s academy, and at first played not in goal, but in attack. "I was a bit of a battering ram, and even scored some goals," Ilya recalled with a laugh in an interview with Sport24 in February 2019. “But for the match against the guys from the year group above, I had to play in goal because our goalkeeper got sick. After that match, I was immediately promoted to the 1995 group. I knew before that I would probably be a keeper. I always wore my father's gloves when we went out into the yard."

Pomazun moved to CSKA at the age of 12, and at 15 he was already on the bench for the senior team’s match against Zenit. Igor Akinfeev was recovering from a cruciate ligament injury, Sergey Chepchugov was suspended, leaving 16-year-old Sergey Revyakin to start between the sticks. Pomazun’s full debut only took place on 6 August 2017, 10 days before his 21st birthday.

Chances in the RPL: jitters before Rubin, victory at the Petrovsky

On 2 August 2017, CSKA qualified for the Champions League at the expense of AEK Athens, and the next day Akinfeev was diagnosed with a knee injury. The captain was recommended to train individually, and four days later, Pomazun – who had taken 1 as his shirt number before the season – started against Rubin. The match wasn’t a success: Pomazun conceded twice from Jonatas in the first 10 minutes, and CSKA lost 2-1.

"I was shaking just before the game, I was nervous," the goalkeeper recalled in 2019. “I psychologically adjusted to a different start of the match, and it was already 2-0 by the 10th minute. When I recovered and felt confident, it was too late." Viktor Gancharenko defended the young player: "We should have helped Pomazun more. And we got a corner in the second minute out of the blue. The defence could have helped him more."

The keeper was helped not only by the support of the coaches – in addition to Gancharenko, Sergey Ovchinnikov encouraged him – but also by a tight schedule. Three days later, he had to go on an away game against Tosno. Pomazun started again at the Petrovsky, where he conceded from Anton Zabolotny, but achieved his first senior victory as the Armymen won 2–1. Akinfeev was back in time for the derby against Spartak, and after that Pomazun’s only domestic appearances came in the Russian Cup. In September 2019, he took to the pitch against Alania Vladikavkaz with the captain's armband.

"I came to the dressing room, and the armband was hanging near my shirt," Pomazun told the CSKA press service after the winning game. “Of course, I felt an additional responsibility. Our captain is Igor Akinfeev, and I had to stand in for him with dignity. I hope I did it."

European Exits: conceding twice to Dzeko in Rome, clean sheet in Barcelona

In October 2018, CSKA beat Real Madrid in a Champions League match, but a few seconds before the final whistle, Akinfeev received a red card. Pomazun was watching the match from the stands due to an injury, and 20-year-old Georgy Kyrnats came on briefly to complete the clean sheet. The coaching staff prepared Pomazun for the next game; against Roma on the road.

The Armymen lost 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico as Edin Dzeko scored twice, and Cengiz Under bagged another. Pomazun even said in a flash interview that he was afraid of talking to Akinfeev, and then admitted that he was just nervous: "Right after the game I didn't quite understand what was happening. I was on edge and blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Igor praised me after Roma and said that I played well."

Akinfeev's back-up got a chance in the last Europa League group stage match in December 2019, a dead rubber against Espanyol, as he kept a clean sheet and helped CSKA win in Barcelona. The journalists were impressed with Pomazun's performance and asked Gancharenko if Pomazun was able to fully replace Akinfeev in the future.

"Let's refrain from praises for the time being. When you have such a block, it is a great help. We hope that Akinfeev will play as long as possible. We understand that Pomazun’s role is a thankless one and, for example, Oblyakov we can move more easily. We hope Igor will serve us for a long time in the game, and that Pomazun develops with us. This is also a good help," the CSKA manager said.

Out on loan: Ovchinnikov called Pomazun among best in RPL, and that he’ll be ready for competition at Ural

"Pomazun has already outgrown the status of backup keeper," Sergey Ovchinnikov told CSKA's official website during the winter training camp. “He is a very talented young goalkeeper, who, in my opinion, is one of the strongest in the RPL today, when compared with other teams. He doesn't have a great history in terms of games, but I see his strong qualities, and the rare games that he plays at this level are noted by foreign colleagues and people who are not related to CSKA.

“Ilya has taken a lot from Igor, he is very hardworking with his own difficult tasks, but the role of backup goalkeeper is very important. I  only wish that he develops further. I want his career to be successful."

On 5 August, the club extended Pomazun’s contract until 2025 and immediately loaned the goalkeeper to Ural. "I understood that I needed to grow professionally, I needed to practice games," the goalkeeper said in his first interview with the club's press service. “Ural is a team with which we can achieve many good victories, success and please our fans. Everyone at CSKA supported me and wished me good luck so that I could play more games. I think everyone will be happy about it."

Ural manager Yury Matveev picked the proven Yaroslav Godzyur in the two opening matches. But he conceded three goals, so Pomazun got a chance against Lokomotiv. The Railwaymen had eight shots on target, but only Fyodor Smolov's 87th-minute strike found its way past Pomazun. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, and the goalkeeper was named man of the match.

"Before each match, we decide the team with the coaching staff," Matveev said after the match. “Today the choice fell on Ilya. I am glad that he turned out to have a high-quality game, and we will continue to use him. But at the same time do not intend to ignore the services of Godzyur. Who is better prepared will play. I am happy that the team has two equal goalkeepers."

Against Krasnodar Pomazun saved fewer shots, but these five saves were key – he helped Ural win their first victory of the season thanks to his first RPL clean sheet, and was again named man of the match.

"Such matches are Pomazun's job," said Ural President Grigory Ivanov in an interview with Sport24. " If he wants to become a good goalkeeper, he must help out the team. Have CSKA called about recalling him? It is too early! While the best goalkeeper in the country is playing for CSKA, it will be difficult for Ilya there, but here he has match practice. This is a big help for CSKA, I don't think they will take him now. And we can prepare him; he needs to play, get experience."

Photo: Ural


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