Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rostov 3-0 CSKA: Rostov decimate second-string CSKA but still fall into playoff places

Rostov put in a superb performance over a weakened CSKA Moscow side, but it was not enough to escape the relegation playoffs as Dinamo and Zenit failed to beat Volga and Amkar respectively.

Leonid Slutskiy's team selection was something of a mystery today, with large swathes of the first team missing from the 18-man squad. Igor Akinfeev was relegated to the bench in favour of Sergei Chepchugov, whilst Mario Fernandes, Sergei Ignashevich, Seydou Doumbia, Vagner Love and Keisuke Honda missed out entirely. Nonetheless, CSKA lined up in their standard 4-2-3-1, with Dzagoev sitting behind Musa while Mark Gonzalez and Pavel Mamaev took up the wide positions. Bizarrely, Georgi Schennikov and Kirill Nababkin interchanged quite frequently in the fullback positions.

CSKA seemed content to sit deep in the early stages and allow Rostov to tire themselves in attack. As a result, the hosts saw the vast majority of the possession in the first half hour, although they failed to take advantage for the most part. Rostov's attack throughout the season has relied mostly on pace, so when given time on the ball, they found it nearly impossible to break through CSKA's defence. Indeed, Rostov's opener came following one of CSKA's only attacks of the half, as Pletikosa made an excellent save before playing the ball out to Guelor Kanga Kaku, who made an excellent lobbed through ball to the onrushing Dmitri Poloz, who was able to slide his shot past Chepchugov to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute. At this stage, Slutskiy pushed Alan Dzagoev into a more advanced role behind the striker, rather than the deeper central midfield role that he had played up until that point. This move gave CSKA greater attacking impetus and the possession numbers mostly leveled out as the half continued. Indeed, it was Dzagoev himself who provided CSKA's most notable chance of the half as he dribbled into the Rostov box before unleashing a strong shot on goal that Pletikosa was able to parry as far as Siyanda Xulu, who was happy to clear the danger. Mere moments later, Rostov pushed down the other end and Danko Lazovic fed Kanga Kaku with an excellent through ball and the Gabon international chipped Chepchugov to put Rostov two goals to the good immediately before half time.

The interval saw no changes, although CSKA's fullbacks appeared to cease their interchange and remained locked in their natural positions: Schennikov on the left & Nababkin on the right. Dzagoev also continued in his advanced position and created a number of chances early on, most notably a lobbed pass to Ahmed Musa, who contrived to put it over the bar. However, it wasn't long before Rostov put the finishing touches on the win, when Kalachev headed home a long Lazovic cross in the 55th minute to make it 3-0 and put the game out of reach of the champions. A substitution just under 10 minutes later allowed Tomas Necid to make his first and only appearance of the season after suffering a number of injuries. His introduction also forced Ahmed Musa out to the left flank in place of the relatively static Mark Gonzalez, leading to more fluidity and interchange between CSKA's attacking band of 3. Necid didn't look like a player who had missed 12 months of play, and he did well to set up chances for both Dzagoev and Musa with his hold up play. However, despite the impressive cameo, Necid was unable to turn the tide. Xulu came close with a header late on and Jan Holenda saw a volley skew wide in the closing seconds, but the score finished 3-0 to the relegation battlers.

Man of the Match: Guelor Kanga Kaku
Constantly dangerous throughout the first half, with accurate passing and shooting that allowed him to notch up a goal and an assist.

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