This was an enthralling game that promised goals from the off, before literally slapping viewers around the face with them via Welliton’s six-minute hat-trick!
Overall, Spartak deserved the three points, though it’s a shame the away side’s club-captaining goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko was at fault for 75 percent of their strikes.
His side were 4-1 down until Sergei Pasyakov’s harsh injury-time red card allowed another Sergei, Kornilenko, to reduce the deficit from the spot: a task rendered unproblematic as Martin Stranzl was forced to don the gloves.
Referee Eduard Maliy perhaps felt he needed to make amends by awarding the Siberians a penalty – at 0-0, he awarded then subtracted a dot-shot to the visitors, bemusing all by replacing it with a drop-ball!
Spartak started in a manner suggesting they were still buoyed by last week’s 3-2 *away* win over Loko at the Luznikhi stadium – the same venue used to contest this game.
They made one change from that successful XI, incorporating newbie Dmitri Kombarov after his signing from Dynamo. Aidan McGeady, on the other hand, wasn’t even deemed fit enough for the bench.
After disappointingly letting Krylya steal a point from the Trud Stadium in round 17, the team nicknamed after the city’s famous felt-boot product made one alteration by choice, and another by Spartak’s say-so – on-loan talisman Artyom Dzyuba understandably not allowed to face his parent club.
Too often this season, Spartak’s players have selfishly wasted decent territorial positions by erratically blazing over the bar; slow, stodgy build-up play also preceding such ineptitude.
However, 2009s silver-medallists were refreshingly gung-ho and fluid in front of a vociferous crowd eagerly awaiting the start of the Champions League group stages here.
Goal-kicks were sent long as every possible attempt to keep the defence high was made. Pinning Tom back with the waspish Welliton dashing teasingly amongst the defenders, Spartak had space to first-time find one another.
Alex and Ibson were particularly sharp, bringing from deep with purpose, pace and potency, before laying on the dangerous Kombarov to whip-in dangerously, or give-and-go with Welliton.
Such was Spartak’s enthusiasm and the way it never dampened, Tom actually ended seeing an equal amount of the ball.
Coach Valeri Nepomniachi set his team out in a 4-4-1-1, with the full-backs instructed to sit deep, and the wide-midfielders regularly interchanging or staying infield – a tactic designed to swamp the Brazilians in midfield.
Kim Nam-Il in particular had a wonderful game. So accomplished and calm in the upright tackle, the Korean quarterback’s passes always found their target.
Unfortunately, last-season’s ninth-placed finishers were just too cagey when allowed to string passes together on the floor. Pressed as furiously by Spartak as they themselves enacted on the hosts, Tom’s players froze, entrapped by a defensive mindset.
Resultantly, Tom’s play was mainly assisted by the clouds; defenders scooping, curling or hoofing upfield for the lively but lonely Kornilenko.
The on-loan Zenit man was obviously frightening Martin Stranzl and Marek Suchý – the latter joining in the occasionally brutal nature of midfield warfare by shoulder-barging Kornilenko’s sprints with the ball nowhere near their coming-together.
Throughout, all four centre-backs were active and mobile. A lovely afternoon sun coated the synthetic surface, and this meant the ball deceptively bounced panic-inducingly high.
With both lone-strikers full of beans, the central-defenders often rushed out to kill the ball or stop the man at point of contact.
Valeri Karpin’s side were quicker to respond to this stalemate-ensuring tactic, instead sending their goal-kicks in the direction of Ari on the wing who had the beating of former Spartak prospect Ilya Gultyaev.
Self-destructively, Tom took to halting the ball-player or chaser too eagerly. Any of the boys in blue bar Kornilenko and Pareiko followed red shirts down dead ends, accompanied in the dust by three colleagues.
Bizarrely, the discipline for Alex’s consistently decent set-pieces was much better, the zonal marking system never flustered or beaten.
Yet this insistence on closing in packs allowed Spartak’s central-creators to feed the willing wide-whooshers. With the interval approaching and the match still scoreless, Tom Tomsk’s full-backs even began to offer the attackers some width.
The second-half began as if the first-half had never ended – frenetic, fiery, and open. Kyrylo Kovalchuk was the only change – replacing the anonymous Macedonian Goran Maznov, and immediately adding more penetration as a right-veering support-striker.
Just minutes into the second half, the home side took the lead. Seemingly corked near the corner-flag, Kombarov too easily stepped back and readjusted the angle.
Vladislav Khatazhenkov was the guilty party, paying for his lax cover. Kombarov’s right-footed pass across the box-edge was slack, but Dmitri Michkov’s stab even slacker.
Ibson continued the swordsmanship, releasing Welliton with a poke, and the Brazilian showed the difference a goal-poacher makes. His finish was swift, sharp and low, but the Estonian ‘keeper failed to keep it out despite making contact.
Welliton was on the way to filling his boots: Suchý scooped over Gultyaev, who was painfully unaware of the fact substitute Nikita Bazhenov was lurking behind him, therefore free to collect the pass. His subsequent cross was superb, and two yards from goal, Welliton placed the header goalwards.
Spartak began to get cocky – Kombarov, for example, tried turning a goal-kick-winning-guard into a needless 180° spin and surge, but Valeri Klimov and Khatazhenkov weren’t in the mood to be humiliated.
Kombarov got away with that lapse, and seconds later, Spartak put the game to bed. Alex and Ibson’s short left-sided corner-kick was marshalled, so Alex curled it to swing out on the centre of the six-yard-box.
Inexplicably, Welliton had been allowed to stand on Pareiko unattended, thus having the somewhat uncomplicated task of stepping-back from the flat-footed custodian, steering his header goalwards, and watching as the Estonian again fumbled into the net!
The pace of the game took a while to fully die out, and when it did, Kornilenko soon rammed it right back in.
Nam-Il’s right-footed free-kick was perfectly weighted, but the home-side’s marking was shoddy – Kornilenko so easily scoring with his head after shimmying away from the inattentive Sergei Parshivlyuk.
Tom’s resurgence soon petered away, and Alex sealed the points in the 87th minute. Parshivlyuk showed great adventure to carry from his own half into the opposition’s box, and lined up the square.
Deceivingly, he pulled the ball back, Jano Ananidze slipped when swinging his foot at it, but Alex was far more deadly – again though, question marks over just how Pareiko let the ball in despite getting his hands to it.
More theatre followed, albeit deep into injury time with 18 of the players having one foot in the bath. The referee’s glances at the watch were becoming frequent, and an unpressurised Khatazhenkov sent a delegation punt upfield.
Suchý misjudge of the bounce was comical enough, but there was nothing funny about the hunger shown by Kornilenko – eager to get himself on the scoresheet again with Welliton and Oleksandr Aliyev turning the quest for the golden boot into a two-horse race.
His eagerness worried Pesyakov into a body-check, ensuring Spartak’s seasonal goal-difference got reduced, and leaving Karpin sans ‘keeper for next week’s match at Terek Grozny.
It finished at just the six goals, all of which came in the second half. Tom, four points and three places behind yesterday’s victors in ninth, now face fellow mid-table side Dynamo Moscow next time out.