Spartak Moscow – Zenit St Petersburg 2-1
Spartak Moscow have one hand on the Russian Premier League title after defeating rivals Zenit 2-1 a day after second-placed CSKA dropped points.
The Muscovites are now ten points clear at the top thanks to goals from Quincy Promes and Aleksandr Samedov either side of an Artyom Dzyuba equaliser.
Promes opened the scoring in the 21st minute when he guided Denis Glushakov’s pass into the far corner with a fine, first-time curler from just inside the box.
The visitors equalised on 66 minutes when Dzyuba took down Domenico Criscito’s left-wing cross, swivelled on a sixpence and made no mistake in slotting home.
Zenit realistically needed a win to remain in the title race but were hit by suckerpunch on the counter with 10 minutes to go. Promes shrugged off a challenge to play the ball into the path of Samedov, whose shot across goal found the bottom left corner.
Spartak manager Massimo Carrera rejected the notion that his side are already champions. He said: “No, there are still seven matches left. If today had been the final game, then I would say yes. But we have currently not done anything. Of course, we won an important game and we are happy with a victory over Zenit but I will repeat: there are still seven games ahead of us.
“If our team, like the supporters and journalists, think that Spartak have already won the championship, they are making a big mistake. Seven games is quite a lot. A battle with Rostov awaits us on Saturday, then a game with CSKA. They are difficult games; we cannot relax. We need to keep this in mind and then we can become champions.”
Russia’s minister for foreign affairs and long-time Spartak fan, Sergei Lavrov, spoke of his relief. He said: “I said that it would be a victory. But validol [known for its sedative effect] was added today! Dzyuba scored a goal in a ten-minute period when we sat off; he is a very good player.”
Zenit manager Mircea Lucescu admitted that the better side won: “Spartak looked better in the first half. We made many unforced errors, we felt the pressure. The game was very important and our technical players made some very stupid mistakes. The second half we played better, had the advantage and scored a goal. After that we had some good moments.
“Overall I think Spartak deserved the win. Now it is necessary to gather our thoughts and do everything possible to fight for a place in the Champions League. Zenit cannot remain without it for a second year in a row. Today’s game confirmed that Spartak are deservedly where they are.”
Defender Branislav Ivanovic felt that the tide of the match changed after the opening goal. He said: “It was very difficult. Initially we were controlling the game with Spartak but, after conceding the goal, we lost ourselves a little. When the second half began, we had full control of the game. And, after we equalised, even more so. But we lacked concentration for several chances; we had some. When you concede the second, there is no strength there any more.”
FC Orenburg – Terek Grozny 2-1
Orenburg manager Robert Evdokimov: “Terek are a really strong team and I like them. They play very properly, skilfully and not for nothing do they occupy a high position. But we played our best game in going from defence to attack because we created enough clear-cut goalscoring chances. To have drawn today, or even worse lose, would have been strange and upsetting.”
Terek boss Rashid Rakhimov: “Such matches happen. Of course, it is upsetting for the team; nothing pointed towards conceding the second goal. We need to take the hit and move on. It is clear that Orenburg need the points. There is the next game; we need to analyse this match and move on.”
Rubin Kazan – FC Krasnodar 0-1
Rubin boss Javi Gracia: “It is possible to search for people to blame but I am not looking outside. Today we, for the most part, played well. We didn’t score. We are currently on a run of bad results and we still are having no luck. We prepared well for the game and knew Krasnodar’s strengths. But we were not accurate and the opponent was.”
Krasnodar manager Igor Shalimov: “How did we win? Firstly, on account of the goal: we scored and they didn’t. We tried to demonstrate our game, lead quick attacks and create chances. Of course, you cannot allow for quick counterattacks from the opposition. In this sense, not everything was ideal defensively. There were many chances. We need to win these sort of games more convincingly.”
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.