Zenit 2-0 Tom Tomsk

The starting systems. Yuri Zhevnov in the Zenit goal had absolutely nothing to do, though was called upon during three occasions in the second half.

Two red cards, a goal disallowed just as play was about to be restarted, tons of show-boating, and a delay caused by excessive flare-smoke: all this, yet Zenit’s round 20 victory was still boringly routine.

In fairness to the visitors, Sergei Kornilenko’s recent departure and Artem Dzyuba’s absence was bound to prove blunting, and despite dropping points and positions by the week, Tom are probably content to write this match off.

Zenit didn’t exactly ooze class, but showed and used it at the right moments. Their two goals owed more to defensive mishaps, but as both came in the first half, they were able to play the second period in lesser gears.

Luciano Spalletti’s side boast an enviable quality of appearing to park the bus, only to dupe us all and illustrate their stranglehold on the game by launching unstoppable counter-attacks.

Both sides started with what were effectively 4-4-1-1 formations. However, Zenit’s was more potent in attack, fluid, and sharper on the break. Continue reading

Five lesser known Hungarians

The formations and line-ups for the famous 1953 meeting at Wembley

Following May’s 3-0 defeat to Germany, Hungary terminated the contract of coach Erwin Koeman. The new man, Sándor Egervári, begans his tenure next week with an not particularly highly anticipated fixture against England at Wembley.

For next Wednesday’s fixture, the Dutchman’s successor has picked a squad containing stellar names, newbies and trusted veterans.

Akin to the lack of enthusiasm England’s media, public and managers are giving this tie in the build-up, Egervári has named a suitably unspectacular squad.

Fabio Capello’s players have one eye lingering on the imminent Premier League campaign, while Egervári picked his squad knowing that his nation’s U21 game against Bosnia is of greater importance.

Nevertheless, Football League fans will recognise the likes of Zoltán Gera, Ákos Buzsáky, Gábor Király, Márton Fülöp and Tamás Priskin, all of whom will feature at Wembley.

In order to bolster the casual fan’s knowledge of what other players lie in store for England,  allow me to introduce five players likely to cause problems to the 1966 world champions on Wembley’s woeful turf. Continue reading

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

League action in USA and Russia

On Friday, ESPN UK provided subscribers with live coverage of Alania Vladikavkaz against Zenit St Petersburg in the Russian top flight, before airing the Chicago Fire-Real Salt Lake MLS match.

Alania Vladikavkaz vs Zenit St Petersburg, 09/07/10

Both ties were similar – Luciano Spalletti’s Zenit top the Russian Premier League, while Real are Major League Soccer’s team to beat. In comparison, Alania and Chicago both linger in the lower echelons of their respective divisions.

Unsurprisingly, that aforementioned duo showed their lofty positions to be no coincidence, brushing aside their opponents by scorelines of 3-1 and 1-0 respectively.

Neither Vladikavkaz or the Fire appeared overwhelmingly blunt up top, yet defensive lapses proved the undoing of two teams in 4-4-1-1 systems.

Both sides accepted their underdogs roles pre-match, so therefore picked XIs capable of sitting and stifling in disciplined banks. Continue reading