Sunday, September 1, 2013

Zenit 2-1 Lokomotiv: Match Takes Back Seat to Poor Officiating

What promised to be a good match was ultimately ruined by poor officiating as referee Sergei Ivanov failed to contain tensions between the two teams and ultimately awarded each side an unnecessary penalty.

Both sides lined up basically as expected, Zenit in their typical 4-3-3, with a midfield consisting of Konstantin Zyryanov, Axel Witsel and Roman Shirokov. Aleksandr Kerzhakov was the only change in the front three, replacing Oleg Shatov, while Tomas Hubocan started at left back despite the presence of Nicolas Lombaerts in the starting XI. Lokomotiv too went with their preferred formation, a 4-2-3-1, and their standard back four all got starts. Meanwhile, Lassana Diarra got his first start for Lokomotiv and Felipe Caicedo was favoured up front to Dame N'Doye and Roman Pavlyuchenko, both of whom started on the bench.

Zenit opened the match well, with Axel Witsel coming close within 5 minutes, however Ilya Abaev was there to make a solid save. Minutes later, we saw a sign of what was to come, as the referee dished out unnecessary cards to Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Vedran Corluka. The match continued in this vein when, following a Mbark Boussoufa free kick that rattled the crossbar, Luis Neto and Renat Ranbaev were also booked, with Yanbaev being the first player to actually deserve a card. It was Zenit who had the next chance, as Andrei Arshavin cut into the box from the right and shot across the face of goal, before Boussoufa shook the woodwork again 15 minutes later with a shot from just inside the box. As the half wound to an end, Roman Shirokov and Lassana Diarra tripped over one another in the Lokomotiv box, and the referee deemed it a professional foul (which was the wrong call in my opinion), sending Diarra off and awarding Zenit a penalty, which Shirokov confidently converted.

football formationsNow down a man, Lokomotiv manager Leonid Kuchuk was forced to make a defensive change, with Felipe Caicedo being replaced by Jan Tigorev at half time. It appeared to work at first, as Lokomotiv gained possession for long spells and coming close through Maicon and Dmitri Tarasov in the opening 10 minutes of the half. Their efforts finally paid off when, in the 69th minute, the referee made another poor decision, deeming that Igor Smolnikov handled the ball in the box and handing Lokomotiv a chance to equalise from the spot. Boussoufa took the opportunity and put the teams back on level terms, although Zenit pushed harder and finally started to retake control of the match. Nonetheless, Lokomotiv defended valiantly and appeared to have held the hosts to a draw when they were punished in the 86th minute. Danny dribbled into the Lokomotiv box and cut the ball back to Konstantin Zyryanov (seriously, that guy is still playing?!), who shot past Abaev from the edge of the box, ending the match at 2-1 to Zenit.

Man of the Match: Mbark Boussoufa
Boussoufa was excellent on the ball, creating a number of chances with his excellent passing. He was unlucky not to score from open play, however he made up for it by scoring the penalty.

Honourable Mentions:
Nicolas Lombaerts - Solid at the back and confident on the ball, Lombaerts relieved pressure on his midfielders by taking up some of the playmaking burden.
Roman Shirokov - Shirokov had an unusually poor passing game, yet was fantastic with the ball at his feet and confidently converted from the spot to put the hosts in front.
Dmitri Tarasov - Tarasov didn't put a foot out of line all match, effectively creating play and breaking up Zenit attacks with apparent ease.

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