The Russian Premier League this week produced twenty-three goals and no draws. This lead to plenty of changes at the bottom and the top three continue to win. The league has split into four sections, the top three who can’t be stopped, three sides battling for the Europa League places, four sit in mid-table and six sides are scrapping away for survival.
Kuban entered their game against CSKA on the back of two victories but their visitors went into the game with five wins in a row, so Kuban had a tough game ahead. The dangerous Doumbia has been in great form since the league’s return and he should have given CSKA the lead early on. He managed to easily pass Kaboré before playing a one-two with Bazelyuk and with a bit of luck he was through on goal, fortunately for Kuban the Ivory Coast striker lacked composure and dragged his shot wide. Both keepers had saves to make in the first half, Belenov was forced to make a couple and Akinfeev produced a great save down to his right to stop a header creeping in. CSKA went into the lead in the 38th minute, Zuber linked up brilliantly with Bazelyuk on the edge of the area before finishing past Belenov for his first CSKA goal. Kuban almost leveled things soon after, Melgarejo skipped past two defenders and his low shot fired across goal to hit the post, Ignatyev picked up the ball but he was denied by a quality Akinfeev save. In the 44th minute CSKA were given the chance to make it 2-0 when Bugaev lost his footing while wrestling with Doumbia, this resulted in him bringing down the striker who was through on goal. Doumbia was the man to step up and send Belenov the wrong way.
Four minutes after the break CSKA wrapped up the game when they made it 3-0. Some lovely footwork from Tošić had the defence back-peddling and the Serbian took the chance to set the ball to Bazelyuk who calmly stroked the ball across goal and beyond Belenov. CSKA grabbed their fourth in the 66th minute, another lovely piece of link up play saw Tošić and Doumbia playing a one-two on the edge of the area before Tošić fired home. Late on it could’ve been five, Zuber played the ball through to Tošić and the Serbian could only direct his effort straight at Belenov. CSKA have now moved six points clear of Dinamo and they sit just three points behind Lokomotiv, third place looks like theirs and they continue to wait for their chance to pounce on any slip up from above.
Two sides that sit at different ends of the table a very consistent Lokomotiv side are challenging for the title, while a much improved Terek side fight against the drop. Lokomotiv started the game well but they found themselves behind at the half an hour mark. Aílton Almeida cut in from the left, took the ball past both Yanbayev and Shishkin before firing his shot past Guilherme. Lokotmotiv should have been level at the break but they failed to make the most of their chances. Both sides struck the post in the second half, Boussoufa’s freekick flew past the wall only to be denied by the woodwork, while Aílton Almeida’s shot cannoned off the post after the ball was cut back to him. Lokomotiv got back into the game in the 72nd minute, Terek didn’t deal with a long ball and this allowed Tkachev to head across goal to Pavlyuchenko who tapped in from a few yards out. Eleven minutes from time Lokomotiv scored the winner, Samedov produced an excellent cross from just inside the area and Pavlyuchenko was the man on the end of that cross to head in his second. Lokomotiv’s win keeps the pressure on Zenit, while the defeat for Terek sees them drop down a place ahead of another tough game next week.
Top versus bottom saw Zenit travel to Anzhi. Last season these two were both fighting for the title but after some huge changes the home side find themselves bottom and close to having their relegation confirmed. Anzhi almost took an early lead, a Lombaerts tackle took the ball away from Bystrov but it also directed the ball into Bilyaletdinov’s path, fortunately the Spartak loanee missed his chance as his effort hit the outside of the post. In the 9th minute Zenit took the lead. Witsel intercepted the ball to start a counter attack which saw Hulk, Rondón and Danny link up before Witsel picked the ball up again to poke the ball through to Rondón, the winter signing controlled before tucking the ball past Kerzhakov. Anzhi almost got back into the game twice, they narrowly missed from a header and Lodygin was forced into making a great fingertip save. They were finally level in the 29th minute, Neto slide in to clear Maksimov’s cross but his clearance fell straight to Smolov who struck his volley into the ground and over Lodygin. Zenit missed a couple of good chances but they were able to grab the winner just after the hour mark. Hulk played a one-two with Danny before passing to Rondón, the Venezuelan held off his marker before setting the ball to Danny who smashed his shot past the helpless Kerzhakov. Zenit stay ahead of Lokomotiv and they are looking strong under Villas-Boas. That loss now sees Anzhi eight points away from a relegation playoff spot.
The Europa League Battle
Both sides are fighting for Europa League spot. Dinamo sit in fourth place, while Krasnodar sit in sixth and they like their rivals Kuban last season will be hoping to achieve a spot in Europe for the first time. Dinamo took the lead in fantastic fashion, Yusupov found Kasaev and last week’s super sub played a lovely ball through to Kokorin who managed to beat Sinitsyn at his near post with a powerful effort. Early into the second half Dinamo were reduced to ten men, Kozlov’s poor attempt at getting the ball saw him go through the back of Joãozinho. Despite having less men on the pitch Dinamo came close to doubling their lead twice, first up was Kuranyi who headed over from a couple of yards out and then Samba’s header from a freekick was clawed away Sinitsyn. Krasnodar were level in the 73rd minute. Laborde played a lovely ball through to Kaleshin, the left back cut the ball back to pick out Joãozinho who headed the ball to an unmarked Shirokov at the back post, the Zenit loanee headed past Samba and despite his efforts the ball was already across the line when Gabulov attempted to keep it out. Nine minutes from time Krasnodar scored their second and the winner. Wanderson played the ball into Shirokov, he then delightfully backheeled the ball to Pereyra who then played it across to Laborde and the Colombian curled his shot round Gabulov and his first goal for the club went in off the post. A minute from time Laborde was given a straight red card, when his efforts to control the ball resulted in him catching Zhirkov with his studs. Late on Dinamo increased the pressure on Krasnodar. Kokorin had a header cleared off the line, the resulting corner gave Noboa a great chance to score but his shot flashed wide, had he scored it would’ve been ruled out for offside. Not the home debut Cherchesov would’ve wanted and Dinamo lose ground on CSKA. Krasnodar however increase the pressure on Spartak and now sit three points behind Dinamo and a point behind Spartak.
Rubin went into their game with Spartak with a poor run of four games without a win, Spartak have also suffered some dreadful form but that came to an end last week after they defeated Krylya, well so they thought. Ebert had a chance to give Spartak an early lead but he fluffed his shot after Kombarov played a great pass to him. Spartak came the closest to scoring, Movsisyan tried his luck with a curling effort from distance and his attempt went just wide. Azmoun had a great chance for the hosts when a lovely lobbed pass found him, however he completely missed the ball. The breakthrough finally came in the 56th minute, Jurado played a long ball to Movsisyan and the Armenian managed to get away from César Navas to fire a cracking shot from the edge of the area which found the net after hitting the crossbar. Rubin got themselves level in the 67th minute, Mogilevets’ ball into the box found Dević and the Ukrainian stretched out his leg to poke the ball past Dikan. In injury time Rubin snatched all three points, when they managed to hit Spartak on the break and Prudnikov played a quick one-two with Kuzmin before firing low across goal and into the bottom corner. A key win for Rubin as they now sit four points ahead of Ural and it wasn’t the result Spartak wanted, they are now under pressure from Krasnodar.
The first game of the weekend saw a Ural side that had only lost twice since the winter break face Amkar who’ve only won once in 2014. This was only the third meeting between these two sides, they drew earlier this season and their first meeting was in the cup back in 2008 when Amkar won 1-0. The first half didn’t provide much action, Ural almost found an opening when Khozin played the ball through to Erokhin, the midfielder couldn’t get the ball under control and Narubin quickly came out to claim the ball. Amkar’s Ogude wasted a good chance for the home side, he blazed a shot over after a shot from his teammate was blocked. The second half was a lot more lively, Amkar came close when Kanunnikov got on the end of Cherenchikov’s cross, he saw his shot end up on the roof of the net. Ural grabbed the lead in the 67th minute, Acevedo’s outside of the foot pass reached Manucharyan and the Armenian had no trouble controlling before finishing into the bottom corner. Ural went on to seal all three points in the 83rd minute. Acevedo’s corner in was flicked on by Erokhin and Khozin managed to wonder in unmarked at the back post to poke in. Amkar’s poor form continues and they now have to fend off Rostov to keep their 7th spot rather than looking up at the European places. Ural are well on course to stay up but they can’t take their foot off the gas as they have important games against sides around them.
The winter break came at the worst possible time for Krylya, they just started to hit good form (three wins in five games) but the new year has seen them struggle and they are yet to win since the break. Tom on the other hand have shown progress and they’ve only lost twice since the break. Tom had two goals ruled out for offside, Panchenko was at the heart of everything Tom did during the game and he came close with a long distance freekick, forcing Mucha into a save down to his right. Tom finally took the lead twenty-eight minutes in, Panchenko’s freekick was flicked on by Portnyagin and Sabitov bravely finished the move with a diving header at the back post, replays showed he was offside but the goal stood. Just two minutes later Tom had their second of the game. Portnyagin did well to keep the ball in play before finding Panchenko, he was able to get past Dragun and fire the ball across goal to the unmarked Holenda for an easy tap in. There wasn’t many positives for Krylya, their awful form continues and they deservedly lost to Tom, however they can be slightly happy they didn’t concede more. Both Panchenko and Holenda missed good chances in the second half.
Monday’s game saw Volga hosting Rostov, Volga haven’t won since October and they haven’t looked like turning things around in recent weeks. Rostov are having a great season and find themselves sitting in mid-table thanks to a number of solid team performances throughout the season. Volga surprisingly took the lead in the first minute of the game. Karyaka’s corner bounced past Dzyuba and Chicherin at the near post, this allowed Polczak to control and stick the ball past Pletikosa. In the 64th minute a long ball over the top wasn’t dealt with by Bastos who ended up flicking the ball to Sarkisov, who managed to get round Pletikosa to tap in. Rostov pulled a goal back in the 90th minute, Kalachev’s cross was met by Dzyuba, the big number ten pushed his marker out of the way and smashed a volley past Pareiko. A long awaited victory for Volga and it was a vital one, they now sit five points ahead of Anzhi and their also three points away from Tom. Rostov will be disappointed, a missed chance for them as they failed to perform and jump above Amkar.
Goal Of The Week
There were plenty of lovely team goals this week and all worthy of a watch, but this week I’ll be giving my goal of the week to Movsisyan. Sadly for Spartak his goal wasn’t enough for a win but it was a fantastic individual strike from the Armenian.
League Table and Results