Reigning Russian champions Zenit fail to close the gap on leaders CSKA Moscow


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 - Page 18

Reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg failed to narrow the gap to league leaders CSKA Moscow on Monday after settling for a 1-1 draw in a match played behind closed doors.

CSKA remained top with 40 points from 17 matches, three points ahead of second-placed Anzhi Makhachkala, who beat Amkar Perm 2-1. Zenit are third on 34 points.

Zenit were spearheaded by their attacking trio of Danny, Hulk and Alexander Kerzhakov, and they started in a lively fashion, pinning CSKA back from the kickoff, but it was to no immediate avail as the visiting Red Army side defended stoutly, with goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in command of his net.

At halftime, Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti substituted his star striker Hulk, who had been ineffective, and brought on midfielder Vladimir Bystrov.

Defender Renat Yanbayev put Zenit 1-0 up with his first goal of the season after 56 minutes, firing home a shot from a tight angle after a one-two with teammate Viktor Fauzilin, but Zenit failed to keep their lead long as CSKA’s Swedish midfielder Rasmus Elm leveled from the penalty spot with five minutes to go.

“We wanted to control play, but we were making too many mistakes, and gave the initiative to Zenit and allowed them to score,” CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky said. “I’m happy with the result of the match, but not with our performance today. We played awful and it was really uncomfortable to play in front of the empty seats. It was a terrible feeling.”

Meanwhile, big-spenders Anzhi Makhachkala battled back from a goal down to grab a win at Amkar Perm close the gap on CSKA.

The hosts went ahead through fullback Andrei Semenov, who netted with a close-range header from a corner in the 26th minute, but Anzhi pulled level just two minutes later when midfielder Odil Akhmedov ran onto teammate Shamil Lakhiyalov’s pass at the edge of the area and dribbled in to the net past helpless goalkeeper Roman Gerus.

Anzhi, who were without skipper Samuel Eto’o who was serving a one-match ban after collecting his fourth booking, continued to test the hosts’ defense and their substitute midfielder Oleg Shatov scored the winner with a low shot in the third minute of stoppage-time.

“It’s always very difficult to play against teams who are playing tough physical style football like Amkar,” Anzhi manager Guus Hiddink said. “Luckily, everything finished well and we managed to score the winning goal.”