Zenit 3 – 0 Anzhi

Russian League, Round 5
Aug 17, 2013
Zenit 3 – 0 Anzhi
Goals: Shirokov 25, Hulk 43, Ansaldi 73
St.Petersburg, Petrovsky Stadium
Att: 19200

Zenit: Lodygin – Smolnikov, Neto, Lombaerts, Ansaldi – Witsel, Zyryanov (71 Tymoshchuk), Shirokov – Hulk (67 Fayzulin), Bukharov (83 Arshavin), Danny
Anzhi: M.Kerzhakov – Gadzhibekov, Almeida, Joao Carlos, Tagirbekov – Jucilei, Ahmedov, Muhammad (56 Serderov), Carcela-Gonzalez (68 Abdulavov) – Eto’O, Ionov (73 Burmistrov)

Zenit’s starting eleven featured two new signings: right back Igor Smolnikov and left back Cristian Ansaldi. It was a quiet game in the first 20 minutes, however Lodygin had to pull a great save once after Eto’O dipping shot. On 25 minutes Witsel started a counter attack with a good through ball to Danny, the Portugese found Bukharov who held off a defender and laid the ball off to Shirokov who calmly dispatched it into the far corner past the advancing keeper. Zenit dominated from that moment on and created a few more decent chances towards the end of the first half before two minutes from the break Hulk curled a beautiful shot into the upper far corner for 2-0, Shirokov provided the assist.

Zenit took somewhat relaxed appoach to the game in the second half, and the visitors rarely threatened either. In the 73rd minute Ansaldi drilled home after a short corner played to him by Danny.

Shirokov had a good game again and he’s currently Zenit’s most creative player. Smolnikov had a good game as well, made minimum mistakes and supported the attack really well. Unfortunately Witsel wasn’t very convincing, he’s is a far cry from what he was last season, the probable reason is that Spalletti makes him play in the defensive midfielder role despite the Belgian’s great attacking potential.

Hulk limped off with an injury near the hour mark. Before this game, Hulk changed his shirt number to 7 (last season he had played with the number 29 on his back). The number 7 is considered “unlucky” at Zenit, at least by the fans. None of the players who took this number in the last 15 years had a successful career at Zenit: Alexandru Curtianu — a very gifted player whose two spells at Zenit were plagued by injuries, one of them sustained when he got severely beaten while being robbed at his doorstep in St.Petersburg, Sergey Osipov — sustained a serious knee injury, Oleg Trifonov — never played to his potential at Zenit, Radek Sirl — his long and successful Zenit career has ended soon after taking the number, and Alejandro Domínguez — a great talent but he didn’t have a permanent place in the starting lineup and never realized his full potential at Zenit. I wonder what’s going to happen to the Brazilian in the future but so far, he’s out for the CL game away at Pacos.

Two things about the Anzhi game which I think are worth mentioning:

First, Zenit’s transfer campaign. In this summer’s transfer window the club has signed: Lodygin, Ansaldi, Smolnikov, Solovyev, Shatov, Tymoshchuk, and Arshavin. Lodygin has become the first choice goalkeeper already, Ansaldi and Smolnikov are very good defenders, and Arshavin is pure class. A further signing of a new striker is also expected. I’d call this transfer campaign a success. Speaking of the outgoing players: Bruno Alves has left the team for the Turkish side Fenerbahce, Luka Djordjevic has been loaned out to Twente in Holland, and Igor “5 million or I won’t f***ing play” Denisov had been sold to Anzhi which he subsequently left for Dynamo Moscow.

Second, this game was the first in decades (as long as I can remember) where the Zenit starting eleven did not include a single player born in St.Petersburg. The city has two prominent football schools which have been regularly producing quality football players, and traditionally some of them would make their way to Zenit. Now, with the club looking to become a force in European football, it has to rely on star players, of which St.Petersburg has produced none in recent years. End of tradition.

Russian League Standings:
Rostov 13
Spartak 11
CSKA 11
Zenit 10
Loko 10
Dynamo 8
Rubin 7
Amkar 6
Kuban 6
Krylya Sovetov 5
Krasnodar 5
Ural 5
Volga 4
Terek 2
Anzhi 2
Tomj 0

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