CHAMPIONS!! Ufa 1 – 1 Zenit

Russian League, Round 28
May 17, 2015
Ufa 1 – 1 Zenit
Goals: Hulk 32 – Handzic 87
St.Petersburg, Petrovsky Stadium
Att: 17000

Ufa: Yurchenko – Stotskiy, Stepanets, Verkhovtsov, Sukhov – Paurevic, Safronidi, Zaseev, Galiulin (64 Shevchenko), Marcinho (89 Bezdenezhnykh), Diego Carlos (71 Handzic)
Zenit: Lodygin – Anyukov, Neto, Garay, Criscito – Javi Garcia, Arshavin (62 Kerzhakov), Witsel – Shatov (82 Ryazantsev), Hulk, Danny (c) (88 Tymoshchuk)

Ufa’s stadium is undergoing reconstruction so the club plays their home matches in other cities like Perm and Saransk attracting the crowds of about 300 people there, or some such. This time they decided to move their home fixture to the Petrovsky Stadium in St.Petersburg. There was an obviuos reason for that: Zenit needed just one more point to bag the league title and would most likely get it in this round, so the stadium in St.Petersburg would be sold out because most Zenit fans would want to see the event. So being the hosts at Petrovsky, Ufa would get about $800.000 from ticket sales, a huge amount of money for this small club. Still with all the reasoning, the situation when Zenit was going to play an away game at Petrovsky looked weird. This had already happened to other teams in the Russian league though: earlier in the season CSKA played their “away” match versus Tula at their home stadium because the pitch in Tula had been judged unplayable; the difference was that the Tula club protested the decision and sent the reserves to Moscow to play that match, to underscore their protest. Also Spartak played the away derby game versus Torpedo at their own arena, by the clubs’ mutual agreement.

     Danny - Hulk - Shatov
       Witsel - Arshavin
          Javi Garcia
Criscito - Garay - Neto - Anyukov
            Lodygin

The visitors…I mean, Zenit had a few decent attacks in the first half before Hulk thumped in a low free kick from 28.6 meters at the speed of 106 km/hour. The goalkeeper definitely should have done better as the ball went into the corner supposed to be guarded by him.

There was some lively football in the second half as well. Zenit had several chances to increase their lead, but Ufa opened up a bit compared to the first 45 minutes and did some attacking of their owns. That activity eventually resulted in an equalizer which came 3 minutes from time, substitute Handzic heading in Stotskiy’s cross from the left, with Luis Neto ballwatching. With this conceded goal, Zenit essentially paid for all the scoring opportunities they wasted earlier in the game. They went forward in the final minutes looking for the winner but there was almost no time left to get it.

Zenit needed one point from this fixture to mathematically guarantee the league title, so with this draw they became champions, sparking celebrations in the city. The first league title since 2012 for the Petersburgers. Coach Andre Villas-Boas has won the title in his first complete season at Zenit.

Russian League Standings:

                    GP  W  D  L   F-A   Pts
1. Zenit            28  19 7  2  57-16   64
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2. CSKA             28  18 2  8  63-26   56
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3. Krasnodar        28  16 8  4  49-25   56
4. Dynamo           27  14 6  7  49-31   48
5. Rubin            28  13 8  7  38-29   47
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6. Spartak          28  12 7  9  38-37   43
7. Loko             28  11 9  8  30-23   42
8. Terek            28  10 7 11  29-26   37

Next Match: Sat May 23, 1:00pm Amkar – Zenit

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