Russian manager Vladimir Latunov had worked wonders to steer Torpedo Zhodinov clear of relegation, only for them to promptly sack him when he began looking elsewhere! However, he soon gained an upgrade when he took the reigns at divisional rivals Dinamo Minsk.
Who are Dinamo Minsk?
Dinamo Minsk is a seven-time winner of the Belarussian Highest League, but its most recent title was way back in 2004 (34 years in-game). It also has four Belarussian Cup wins, with the most recent in 2035. Last season, they finished in an impressive third. Despite that, Latunov’s new board only expected a top half finish and handed him a transfer budget of £2.1 million.
The Dinamo squad had markedly better quality than Latunov had been working with at Torpedo. The best player was Russian defender Vasily Averjanov, but Latunov was more excited about 20-year-old Dmitriy Smirnov – partly because he sounded like Latunov’s favourite drink – who already had two caps for Belarus. Another strong option was left-winger Andrey Tarbyakov, along with two youngsters in 18-year-old attacking midfielder Mikhail Glomako and 16-year-old striker Vadim Perekhod, who Latunov was convinced could become a star player.
Latunov used his transfer budget to reunite with a former player in right-winger Lukas Kalman, who he’d managed at Nitra. Kalman, who had moved on to Slovan then Lech Poznan, was still just 24 and still listed Latunov in his favoured personnel, joined for a decent £450,000 and instantly became the club’s best player.
He also returned to Torpedo to snap up last season’s star striker Dmitry Timoshenko for £100,000. He then added a much better goalkeeper in Evgeny Arsentjev for £150,000 from Neman Grodno and some defensive cover in exciting Hungarian loanee Ionel Bratu.
Latunov decided to stick with a 4-3-2-1 formation that was similar to the one he’d used at Torpedo. However, he felt he had more attacking threats and a much better defence at his new club so he also created one of his favoured 4-4-2 attacking approaches.
Life in Minsk begins
Latunov’s Dinamo career began in the Belarussian Cup and with an absolute screamer on debut by Golomako. A ridiculous solo goal set Tarbyakov en route to hat-trick as they breezed through only to get battered by Dinamo Brest in the next round.
The Belarussian Highest League began on 4 April 2038, just before most other European leagues conclude! Latunov’s first Dinamo league game was at home to Energetik. It didn’t start well as centre-back Andrey Tikhonovskiy was outrageously sent off after 21 minutes for a challenge where he clearly got the ball. Energetik immediately took the lead with their first shot but Dinamo plugged away and deservedly equalised through substitute Alexey Agapov.
They again started poorly at Smolevichi, who scored with their first shot after 6 minutes. But Dinamo responded in style with Kalman scoring his first for the club three minutes later then winning a penalty that Smirnov tucked home on 11 minutes. Kalman bagged a second on a corner breakaway on 27 minutes before laying on a host of chances that his teammates (mainly Smirnov, 5) missed. But Latunov’s first Dinamo league win was in the bag.
That gave the side confidence, which they took into a 3-0 domination of Smorgon in which Kalman scored again before creating a second for midfielder Vladimir Moroz and racking up 14 key passes! But they were wasteful to draw 0-0 at Rukh Brest then again conceded to a side’s first shot at Shakhter but turned things around with goals from Tarbyakov and midfielder Michal Slama. That took the club to 16 league games unbeaten going back to last season.
Dinamo’s youngest-ever goalscorer
They went behind early at home to Neman Grodno but 16-year-old Perekhod came off the bench to equalise with his first-ever goal – and become Dinamo’s youngest-ever goalscorer. Smirnov bagged just his second of the season and Kalman sealed victory on 70 minutes.
A Tarbyakov double eased them past Slavia Mozyr 2-0 before a Smirnov penalty and supersub Perekhod wrapped up the same result at home to 10-man Slutsk. Perekhod got his first start at Gorodeya and scored again, along with another Smirnov penalty and a header by centre-back Roman Polyarus to extend the unbeaten run to 20 games.
A dominant 4-0 win at Isloch, led by two Golomako assists and a Smirnov brace, took Dinamo complete the first 10 games of the season without defeat. However, despite being the only unbeaten side, they weren’t top of the league as Dinamo Brest had won nine out of their first 10! And that teed up a battle of the two in-form Dinamos. Minsk started the better and a brilliant Kalman pass sent Smirnov through for the opener before the winger doubled the tally just before the break. And that was enough for a 2-0 win to send Latunov’s boys top!
Dinamo then faced the biggest challenge in Belarus with a trip to BATE Borisov, who’ve won the last three titles – thought you wouldn’t have known it based on Latunov’s assistant advising him to use an attacking mentality! They performed well and Perekhod scored again. But the combination of BATE scoring their first shot, getting a dodgy penalty and Perekhod having a late equaliser ruled out for offside saw them fall to a 2-1 defeat.
They responded well with a 2-1 win over Vitebsk, on the same day Brest battered Latunov’s former club Torpedo 6-0, before a turgid 0-0 in the local derby at FC Minsk, on the same weekend that BATE lost and Brest also drew.
Latunov then faced a first clash with Torpedo, who were down in 10th, since they rudely sacked him a few months back. And he showed them what they were missing with a dominant performance as goals from Smirnov and Perkhod sealed a 2-0 win.
Timoshenko had endured a slow start to life in Minsk. And, after a home clash with Smolevichi started slowly, the striker finally scored his first goal for the club to equalise and promptly added his second on the verge of half-time, which edged a 2-1 win.
Despite it being early July, that marked the mid-way point of the season in Belarus, with the transfer window re-opening in two days’ time. Dinamo currently enjoy a one point lead over Brest at the top of the league, with BATE a further five back. After 16 games, Latunov’s side have scored 32 and conceded just eight.
Smirnov is the joint-top scorer in the league with nine goals, although he has the highest xG of 10.98 and the most shots and shots in the target, so he needs to work on his finishing. Kalman has the most assists with seven and Golomako is just one behind him. While Perekhod has the best average minutes per goal in the league of 95.6, scoring five goals in nine games. As a 16-year-old!
The second half of the season sees Dinamo enter the European Conference League playoff games, in which they start off against Ferencvaros. But Latunov is paying serious consideration to playing a reserve team to focus on league affairs.
Join us next time to discover if Dinamo Minsk can maintain their title challenge and lift their first title in 34 years!
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