Sevilla 2 – 1 Zenit

Europa League Quarterfinals First Leg
April 16, 2015
Sevilla 2 – 1 Zenit
Goals: Bacca 73, Denis Suarez 88 – Ryazantsev 29
Sevilla, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
Att: 28450

Sevilla: Rico – Coke, Pareja (46 Mbia), Kolodziejczak, Tremoulinas – Krychowiak, Iborra (46 Denis Suarez), Aleix Vidal, Banega, Jose Antonio Reyes (c), Gameiro (64 Bacca)
Zenit: Lodygin – Anyukov, Neto, Garay, Lombaerts (c), Rodic (65 Mogilevets) – Javi Garcia, Witsel, Shatov (75 Khodzhaniyazov), Ryazantsev (82 Tymoshchuk) – Rondon

         Ryazantsev - Shatov
Rodic - Witsel - Javi Garcia - Anyukov
      Lombaerts - Garay - Neto

What a game! Most interesting Zenit game to watch in the 2015 so far.

Villas-Boas had both fullbacks Smolnikov and Criscito unavaiable through suspensions so he switched to the 3-4-2-1 formation (or it may be alternatively called 5-4-1) and played with three central defenders. Left back Milan Rodic who had played only 2 or 3 games this season was given a rare start on the left side. He actually did very well but had to be substituted after an hour with a hamstring injury. Without freaking stars Hulk and Danny Zenit’s team play improved significantly and they had a very good first half. Zenit held on despite the hosts’ initial pressure and were the first to create a real scoring opportunity: Rodic crossed from the left and Ryazantsev nearly missed the bottom corner with a diving header. Ryazantsev eventually scored on the half hour mark when he spectacularly smashed the ball into the roof of the net from acute angle after his initial effort had been parried by Rico. The hosts played very attractive attacking football with lots of short passing but completely lacked finishing, there were very few shots on goal and Sevilla couldn’t convert any chances in the first half. Despite dominating the game for most of the time and penetrating into the area rather easily, Sevilla ended up with only 2(!!) shots on target in the whole game against Zenit’s 4, that’s pretty incredible. But that’s their style of play I guess, and I can say it’s actually attractive for the audience.

It was also interesting to watch Sevilla’s captain Jose Antonio Reyes. I had followed La Liga closely back in the 2001-02 season when the 17-year old rising star Reyes was young and fast and was scoring a lot of goals. Unfortunately now he doesn’t look as fast anymore and generally disappointed on Thursday. Reyes has still got it, or has he? (from the ):

Second (or third?) fiddle to Unai Emery's hard-running wide men Vitolo and Aleix Vidal, José Antonio Reyes is rarely handed a full 90 minutes nowadays, despite the talent that has brought him winners' medals in the Premier League, Liga and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League – twice. Entrusted with a starting berth and the captain's armband, the local boy provided a neat flick here, quick feet there, yet it was not until the second period that he showed a willingness to really drive his team back into the contest.

In the second half, Zenit started to look tired and the hosts’ advantage became very obvious. Rodic had to be substituted due to an injury but youngster Pavel Mogilevets who replaed him looked totally awful and eventually had to be streched off in the very end after he injured himself in a half-assed attempt of a tackle. Sevilla equalized through substitute Carlos Bakka when he headed in a cross from the right, and then scored the winner two minutes before the end of normal time through Denis Suarez’s angled shot from outside the box after the Petersburgers failed to properly clear a corner. One of the 22(!) corners that the hosts have taken. I think this is some kind of a record.

Despite a very good result, I’m still pessimistic about Zenit’s chances of progressing from this pair. I’ll be posting a short preview for the return leg soon.

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