Zenit 2-0 Rubin Kazan

Two-goal hero, Aleksandr Kerzhakov. Can he again do the job for his side in this week's crucial Champions League qualifying round?

Luciano Spalletti’s Zenit go 10 points clear at the top of the Russian Premier League after overcoming stern resilience from the defending champions. As is customary when top teams go head-to-head, this was a scrappy, scruffy and foul-littered affair.

The tone was set early on, when Lasha Salukvadze’s ambitious carry was met by Tomáš Hubočan’s poised bicep. The Georgian failed to recover from the incident, and Yevgeni Balyaikin was subbed on mere seconds after the referee’s first peep.

This proved handy for Zenit, who tormented the Russian U21 international throughout the remainder of the game. His penchant for trying to cut infield or take the ball upfield as soon as possible wasn’t working, allowing Danny and Aleksandr Kerzhakov to seize control.

The other stretch of the pitch was a graveyard: Cristian Ansaldi, subdued but steely, bolted the lacklustre Vladimir Bystrov, and Alan Kasaev did all his work infield for Rubin. Continue reading

Rostov 1-3 Zenit St Petersburg

Rostov's starting XI. This Christmas tree style played into the hands of Zenit, who exploited the large amount of space between the two sets of three in front of the defence. With Adamov dropping, Lebedenko veering inside & Anđelković surging forward, Rostov descended into a - defensive-minded - Marcelo Bielsa-esque 3-3-4!

Yesterday evening, Zenit St. Petersburg continued their unstoppable march towards the Russian title, beating Rostov on the road.

Luciano Spalletti’s side overcame a stern test in the form of the flourishing Rostov, tasting another success on the ground where they secured the Russian Cup two months back.

After vanquishing both Spartak and CSKA Moscow at their Olimp-2 stadium, I had hoped to see some study resistance from the hosts.

Perhaps this confidence was misplaced – a 3-2 loss at Dinamo Moscow acted as precursor to this true acid-test, a defeat characterised by daft defensive lapses, and two moments of individual genius from Roman Adamov and Igor Lebendenko.

The latter has thoroughly impressed this season, teaming superbly with Dušan Anđelković down the left. But another to have caught the eye, Bosnia’s Mersudin Ahmetović, settled for a spot on the bench here.

Unsurprisingly, the home side sought to attack down that aforementioned potent flank.

The tactic involved Lebedenko cutting inside on his right foot, carrying it fastly but aimlessly towards the right-channel, thus disguising the return ball to the Serb’s overlap. Continue reading