Impressive Win: Zenit 3 – 0 PSV

Europa League, Last 32 Second Leg
February 26, 2015
Zenit 3 – 0 PSV Eindhoven
Goals: Rondon 29, 67, Hulk 48
Missed Penalty: de Jong 61 (saved)
St.Petersburg, Petrovsky Stadium
Att: 17200

Zenit: Lodygin – Smolnikov, Neto, Garay, Anyukov – Javi Garcia, Shatov, Witsel (72 Tymoshchuk) – Hulk (85 Mogilevets), Rondon, Danny (c) (81 Ryazantsev)
PSV: Zoet – Brenet (69 Tamata), Bruma, Isimat-Mirin, Willems – Wijnaldum, Maher, Guardado (80 Hendrix), Narsingh (63 Locadia), de Jong, Depay

In the first game PSV proved completely inept in attack, managing only 2 shots on target in the whole 90 minutes, playing at home against weakened Zenit defense (central defender Lombaerts was out with a knee injury). So beating PSV at home didn’t look like a particularly difficult job, even though Zenit didn’t need to play for the win here as the draw would see them go through. Lombaerts was still unavailable and left back Criscito was also ruled out so Anyukov took his place on the left side of the defense:

      Danny - Rondon - Hulk
         Witsel - Shatov
           Javi Garcia
Anyukov - Garay - Neto - Smolnikov

Overall, a very entertaining game of football. Coach Villas-Boas was banned from the touchline after his dismissal by the ref in the first leg but that didn’t prevent the hosts from playing some really good football. After losing the first leg 0-1 at home PSV apparently had nothing to lose so they decided to play some open football at Petrovsky, which not many teams dare, wary of great attacking potential of Zenit stars. And the visitors duly got punished for their open approach.

In the first half hour the hosts missed a couple of good chances. PSV scored with a header from a corner but the ball was judged to have crossed the line and gone out of play before that. On the half hour mark Danny burst into the area from the right and cut the ball back to Rondon, very much like he did in the first leg when he assisted to Hulk. The Venezuelan calmly sidefooted into the net.

A few minutes after the restart Hulk smashed in a right-footed shot from outside the area and into the top corner, magnificent goal. On the hour mark the ball accidentally hit Garay’s hand in the area and the ref awarded a penalty. Lodygin brilliantly parried de Jong’s shot from the spot. A few minutes later Hulk sent a thunderbolt from a free kick which Zoet could only parry and Rondon was on hand to put away the rebound.

The best Zenit game in some time, albeit not against the strongest of oppositions. The St.Petersburg outfit at the moment is a much better team than PSV. They have better defense, better attack, and better players in general. PSV were outplayed completely in the second leg, they had 5 shots (4 on target) against Zenit’s 21(5). They were so pathetic they couldn’t even score from the penalty spot! PSV’s defense doesn’t seem to know how to mark the opposition forwards in the area, 3 of 4 goals in both games were scored by Zenit forwards from 5-6 meters in front of goal with the defenders ballwatching. OK, the Dutch never knew how to defend, they just don’t do that in the domestic league and the (lack of) results of Dutch clubs in Europe in recent years is no surprise to anyone. Zenit definitely had a good day on Thursday but PSV was really pathetic and apparently they are not good enough for the playoffs of this tournament. Overall, the aggregate score 4-0 correctly reflects the difference in quality between the two teams.

Interestingly, Zenit has a 100% record of going through this stage of the UEFA Cup and Europa League. In the first knock out stage they eliminated Rosenborg in 2006, Villarreal in 2008, Stuttgart in 2009, Young Boys in 2011, and Liverpool in 2013, prior to beating PSV this winter. However the club also have a tradition of failing in the last 16, only having gone through this stage a couple of times, several years ago. This time Zenit were drawn to play Torino in the last 16, the first game will be played in St.Petersburg on March 12. This is going to be much more tough than the PSV, and I rate Zenit’s chances to go through at no more than 50%. But before the Torino clash, Zenit will play at home against Ural on March 7 when the Russian league restarts after the winter break.

Next Match: Sat Mar 7, 7:00pm Zenit – Ural

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