Thursday, May 15, 2014

CSKA 1-0 Lokomotiv: CSKA secure second consecutive RPL title

CSKA managed to clinch the title in an exhilarating decider with a 1-0 win over Lokomotiv at home.

CSKA lined up exactly as expected, however Lokomotiv played a somewhat bizarre set of players. Vedran Corluka was able to return from suspension in the centre of defence, however Renat Yanbaev continued to start over the much more consistent and impressive Roman Shishkin at right back. Also, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Aleksei Miranchuk and Sergei Tkachev started over Dame N'Doye, Mbark Boussoufa and Maicon respectively, the latter two choices seeming questionable at best.

CSKA needed a win to guarantee the title win, however neither side was able to get the upper hand early as Zenit went ahead after just 15 minutes through Axel Witsel to bump the St. Petersburg side into first place. It was Alan Dzagoev that had the best chance of the half for either team when he headed the ball just wide from a free kick, but it failed to trouble Guilherme. Another 10 minutes passed before anything changed in the title race, as Zenit extended their lead through a Salomon Rondon header. The lack of chances ensured that both Moscow sides went into the interval trailing Zenit in the title race, prompting Leonid Kuchuk to substitute Roman Shishkin on for Sergei Tkachev.

The title scene changed immediately after half time as CSKA were able to take the lead straight away. An abysmal back pass from Vedran Corluka was intercepted by Zoran Tosic, who finished low from outside the box to put CSKA into first place. The hosts then continued to build on this by attacking all out, and Dzagoev almost set up Pontus Wernbloom, but the Swede blazed the ball over the bar. Lokomotiv tried to change the game by introducing N'Doye and Boussoufa, but this failed to have a major impact as CSKA continued to push forward, threatening Guilherme's goal often. This was only to last a short while however, as the introduction of Ahmed Musa in place of Dzagoev compromised CSKA defensively, and Loko experienced a slight resurgence. Igor Akinfeev was forced to face several free kicks from dangerous positions, but was equal to all of the efforts. CSKA's defence got increasingly nervy as time went on, and a Vitali Denisov throw in with a minute of regular time left to play caused serious problems for the hosts, but it was eventually cleared and proved to be the final chance of the match. CSKA closed it out well and managed to take the title, despite Zenit's 4-1 win over Kuban in Krasnodar.

football formations Player of the Match: Georgi Schennikov
Schennikov bossed CSKA's left flank all game and shut down the in-form Aleksandr Samedov. An all around excellent performance from the 23-year-old.

Honourable Mentions:
Igor Akinfeev - Kept CSKA in the lead in the dying minutes of the match.
Zoran Tosic - Was largely invisible but did manage to get the title-clinching goal, so of course he gets a mention.

- Lokomotiv came into this with almost no chance of securing the title, but they did themselves no favours and will now have to settle for third place. Disappointing way for them to end the season.
- I like Vedran Corluka, but good god that pass was awful. I will not be surprised at all if he receives death threats from Zenit fans in the coming weeks and months.
- These two teams have the best fullback pairings in the league, and CSKA certainly came out on top in that respect, although that can probably be attributed to Kuchuk's inexplicable dropping of Shishkin from the first XI.

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