Title Race Open Again? Kuban 2 – 2 Zenit

Russian League, Round 26
April 28, 2013
Kuban 2 – 2 Zenit
Goals: Niculae 23, Popov 30 – Zyryanov 6, Danny 66
Krasnodar, Kuban Stadium
Att: 30359

Kuban: Belenov – Leandro, Dealbert, Xandao, Kozlov – Tlisov, Kabore, Popov (67 Bucur), Pizzelli (70 Kulik) – Ionov, Niculae (61 Balde)
Zenit: Malafeev – Anyukov (21 Rodic), Lombaerts, Neto, Hubocan – Denisov, Zyryanov (67 Witsel), Shirokov – Semak (46 Bystrov), Hulk, Danny

The Zenit formation for the game looked like this:

    Danny   -   Hulk   -   Semak
        Shirokov - Zyryanov
             Denisov
Hubocan - Lombaerts - Neto - Anyukov
             Malafeev

Spalletti didn’t have Kerzhakov available because of the forward’s injury.

Kuban played some good football in the first half, as in recent Cup game in St.Petersburg. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the visitors. For example, in the first half alone Danny gave away the ball no less than five times. If he came to play pick-up football in the neighbourhood where I live, then after the first game he’d probably be advised not to come to play anymore. A great move (not involving Danny) led to the first goal of the game early on: Semak and Shirokov combined well on the right side, Shirokov delivered the ball to Hulk who fed Zyryanov with an excellent through pass, and Kosta beat Belenov from close range. Anykov got an elbow in the head while going for a high ball and had to be substituted after just 20 minutes of play. So Milan Rodic got some playing time. It is understood that the Serb came to St.Petersburg to learn to play football, but what’s in it for the club? And why didn’t the coach use Lukovic for the sub? Sure Lukovic is not the most reliable defender in hte world, but it would have been so much more fun watching his attacking moves on the left side. A few minutes after Anyukov’s injury, Hulk near the Zenit area (what was he doing there?) had his pass intercepted, the ball ended up at the feet of Niculae who beat Malafeev at his near post from some 18 meters. On the hour mark, Neto needlessly ventured into the Kuban half for a challenge, missed the ball, a lightning fast counter attack followed, in which Popov went one on one with Malafeev. The Zenit keeper did a great job parrying the forward’s first shot but an unlucky bounce sent the ball back to Popov’s feet and he found the empty net with ease.

The second half was more interesting to watch. Zenit put pressure on the hosts who sat back deep and threatened with counter attacks and long range shots. A half time substitute Bystrov finally had a great game after a few unconvicing performances recently. Unfortunately Vova suffered a broken collarbone in one of the episodes; Spalletti had used all three subs by that time so the winger had to stay on the pitch through pain. In the 66th minute came the move which led to the equalizer: Shirokov rolled the ball to Denisov who with his first touch curled it into the box, right into the path of Danny who sent the ball into the far corner via a deflection off the post, great great execution. Denisov by the way had an excellent game after some period of not so good performances. In the remaining time after the Zenit’s second goal there were scoring chances on both ends. Then in the injury time former Zenit player Aleksey Ionov was put through on goal but sent the ball into the inside of the post with what has become the last kick of the game, his incredible bad luck against Zenit continued from the Cup encounter just eleven days earlier.

Ironically by dropping two points at Kuban, Zenit actually have cut the distance to the leaders CSKA by one more point: CSKA lost their game at Rubin and it’s now only three points between them and St.Petersburgers with four games to go. Suddenly, this season’s title doesn’t look completely impossible for Zenit anymore.

Russian League Standings:
CSKA 57
Zenit 54
Anzhi 47
Spartak 44
Rubin 44
Dynamo 43
Terek 41
Kuban 41
Krasnodar 38
Loko 37

Next Match: Sat May 4, 8:15pm Zenit – Alania

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