European Group Stage Day 2: Round Up

This week saw four Russian sides compete on the European stage. English giants Liverpool and Manchester United were in Moscow for Champions League ties against Spartak and CSKA respectively. In the Europa League, Lokomotiv welcomed Czech side Zlín to the capital, while Zenit played host to Spanish outfit Real Sociedad. With only one of the quartet falling to defeat, Russian Football News has taken a look at the reactions of the managers and players.

 

Champions League

Spartak Moscow – Liverpool 1-1

Spartak rode their luck but claimed a credible point against Liverpool in Moscow.

The Russian league champions looked to have left all their domestic troubles in the changing room as they took the lead via Fernando’s superb free-kick in the 23rd minute.

Twelve minutes later, it was the turn of another Brazilian to find the back of the net when Liverpool’s magician Phillippe Coutinho restored parity.

The visitors had chances by the barrel-load but were unable to find a winner, despite Spartak keeper Artyom Rebrov being stretchered off in the 68th minute.

Under-pressure manager Massimo Carrera was asked whether he was satisfied with the result. He answered: “Yes because we have drawn against strong opposition. I don’t need to tell you what kind of team Liverpool are – they have many talented footballers in their squad.”

He added: “And today we did the best that we possibly could have. It was very difficult. We were trying to counter-attack but, unfortunately, made mistakes in finishing them off.”

On Thursday, Spartak released a statement announcing that goalkeeper Rebrov, who sustained partial damage to his right knee ligaments, will not require surgery but will miss the next game against Ural.

 

CSKA Moscow – Manchester United 1-4

Romelu Lukaku’s fourth-minute strike set the tone for Manchester United’s 4-1 win over CSKA in Moscow.

United doubled their lead twelve minutes later through an Anthony Martial penalty before Lukaku made it three in the 26th minute.

Henrik Mkhitaryan scored the visitors’ fourth just before the hour and, in the dying seconds, the Army Men gave the home fans reason to cheer when 19-year-old Konstantin Kuchaev netted his first goal for the club.

CSKA boss Viktor Goncharenko lamented his side’s poor start. “If we had some sort of plan, then it fell apart after the first goal,” he said. “The performance level dropped significantly, we couldn’t cope. In terms of chances, Manchester United had a big advantage.”

Goncharenko also recognised the difficulty of the task that had faced the Muscovites. He said: “Yes, we can say that the class of this team is very high. And if it weren’t for Akinfeev, who came to the rescue on several occasions…”

Goalscorer Kuchaev was determined to see his side bounce back from the loss and qualify from the group.  He said: “Even after the defeat we have a chance. In the next games, we’ll try to not let the fans down and win.”

 

Europa League

Zenit St. Petersburg – Real Sociedad 3-1

A brace from in-form Aleksandr Kokorin gave Zenit a 3-1 home win over Spaniards Real Sociedad.

Emiliano Rigoni fired the hosts ahead after five minutes and Kokorin doubled Zenit’s lead 20 minutes later. Diego Llorente gave Sociedad hope just before the interval but Kokorin’s strike in the 60th minute put Zenit on course for two wins from as many games.

Triumphant manager Roberto Mancini was pleased by what he saw. “We played very well today,” he said. “Not perfectly, but very well against a very strong team that plays good, quick football. I’m pleased with the match.”

And matchwinner Kokorin was delighted to see Zenit’s strong start to the season continue. He said: “We are very satisfied. Everything is going well in the Europa League and in the Russian championship. We are pleased that victory is following victory.”

 

Lokomotiv Moscow – FC Fastav Zlín 3-0

Manuel Fernandes-inspired Lokomotiv Moscow is the only side to have recorded a win in Group F after a thumping 3-0 victory over Czech side Zlín.

The Portuguese midfielder opened the scoring with a second-minute penalty, doubled his side’s advantage four minutes later and completed his treble just after a quarter of an hour.

And the hat-trick hero revealed that Lokomotiv had planned to make a fast start. He said: “The last few games at home we weren’t very good in the first half so we tried to be aggressive from the first minute. Today, that paid off – we scored three goals very quickly and that set us [up] for the rest of the match.”

Lokomotiv boss Yuri Semin echoed the thoughts of Fernandes. “I wouldn’t call the match easy,” he said. “Everything turned out well because we started brightly. We played a lot of passes in the box, behind the defenders. Our situation regarding the group table is good.”

This weekend signals a return to domestic duties for Russian clubs and you can read the RFN betting preview here. The tie of the round is the Moscow derby between Lokomotiv and Dinamo – can the latter upset the odds and get a result against a side that won so handsomely mid-week? Reigning champions Spartak will be hoping that their draw against Liverpool can set them up for a win against Ural, while leaders Zenit travel to bottom side Anzhi Makhachkala on Sunday.

Author: John Gorrod

I spent the 2015-16 academic year studying Russian at the Tver State University. One day, I visited the stadium of third-division Volga Tver and ended up helping the fans to paint the fences around the pitch. We became firm friends and they introduced me to the wonderful world of Russian football.

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