Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spartak 0-0 Lokomotiv: Visitors lucky to escape with Spartak draw

Lokomotiv Moscow were simply outclassed by local rivals Spartak, but superb defending from Vedran Corluka and Guilherme provided the side with a memorable goalless draw.

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Both sides attempted to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the match lacked balance due to the personnel employed by both managers. For Spartak, Ari drifted inwards leaving Kirill Kombarov to make up width on the right, progressing far higher up the pitch than his brother Dmitri on the left. Lokomotiv also suffered from balance issues, with Dame N'Doye, initially deployed on the left, looking out of place and struggling to make an impact in an unfamiliar position.

The match started drearily as Spartak kept possession around the halfway line, with neither side making any notable ventures forward. The first incident of note came in the 18th minute, after Kirill Kombarov volleyed a cross from his brother at the top of the goal, forcing Guilherme into an excellent save. Spartak continued to be the better side following the chance, but almost gifted Lokomotiv the lead when a Salvatore Bocchetti mistake allowed Felipe Caicedo to fire across the face off the Spartak goal on an efficient counter-attack. This was followed up mere minutes later by another great save from Guilherme, saving a powerful half-volley from Artem Dzyuba, who had done well to control a failed clearance in the box. Halftime came with no further chances, although Spartak had reasonable claim to being the better side.

Several potentially backfiring decisions were made at the half by Lokomotiv manager Slaven Bilic, who shifted Dame N'Doye central and brought on Maksim Grigoryev for Felipe Caicedo, who had been Lokomotiv's most impressive attacking player over the first period. He also shifted Tigorev into the backline, pushing the side into a 5-4-1 formation that counteracted Spartak's greater possession. These changes seemed to work as the match was instantly more balanced in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Spartak saw Dzyuba miss another chance from a half-volley before Kallstrom was replaced by Bilyaletdinov to give the home side more creativity and attacking ability. The change instantly tipped the game back in Spartak's favour as the side pushed further into Lokomotiv's half. Lokomotiv came close from it's only two counter-attacks of the next 15 minutes of play, but the most notable chance came when substitute Bilyaletdinov's powerful volley was deflected onto the crossbar by Guilherme.

football formations
The 77th minute saw Spartak essentially give up on a victory and hold on for the draw by withdrawing Ari from the game for new signing Ognen Vukojevic. Before the end of the match however, Dzyuba managed to spurn another chance after Bilyaletdinov also came close. Deep in stoppage time, Lokomotiv were given a free kick well outside the box that fell to Dmitri Torbinski, whose long range shot was on target but failed to trouble the Spartak keeper Pesyakov. The match ended goalless, but Spartak were the better side by far, but were let down by a misfiring forward line who failed to capitalise on chance after chance.

Man of the Match: Vedran Corluka
Corluka was the most effective member of Lokomotiv's solid defensive unit. The Croatian pressured Dzyuba into several wasted chances and marginalised a normally impressive Yura Movsisyan. His late block on a Bilyaletdinov shot was important to maintaining the draw.

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