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Home Main Chalov’s curious goal, Kassierra’s missed chances and Diveev’s injury: How CSKA defeated Zenit in Week 20 of the Russian Football League
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Chalov’s curious goal, Kassierra’s missed chances and Diveev’s injury: How CSKA defeated Zenit in Week 20 of the Russian Football League

On the eve of Week 20 of the Russian National Football League, CSKA went eight games without a win in a head-to-head game against Zenit. There were few signs that this would be the right time to break that streak. In their last five meetings, Vladimir Fedotov’s charges have prevailed only twice and in the first round after the championship resumption they were beaten by Sochi. Only the absence of injured and disqualified players pleased the coach, which could not be said about the leaders of the championship. Sergey Semak could not count not only on Ivan Sergeyev, but also on Willmar Barrios who got shoulder injury.

Perhaps the absence of the main breaker influenced Zenit’s play in the first half. Zenit got off to a good start and had more ball possession, but CSKA quickly seized on the initiative. The hosts had the visitors clamped down on the penalty box. Jesus Medina, who was without Jorge Carrascal, was one of the leaders in the Red and Blue’s offense. The Colombian remained on the bench, while the attacking trio, along with the Paraguayan, was formed by Fyodor Chalov and Anton Zabolotny.

However, the St Petersburg players managed to thwart the Muscovites’ attacking drive, and at the end of the hour, Fedotov had to make an emergency change. Igor Diveev, who was in the starting lineup for the first time since September, left the pitch due to injury. The Russian national team defender suddenly grabbed his side and cried out in pain, and then asked for a substitution. Kirill Nababkin stepped in to replace him, and Zenit nearly scored within minutes. Mateo Kascierra had an opportunity to finish off a brilliant three-goal basket by Malcom and Daler Kuzyaev – Igor Akinfeev made the save.

CSKA found something to respond. Towards the end of the half, a bright duel between Fedor Chalov and Rodrigao unfolded. It was the Brazilian who provoked it, roughly stepping on the Russian`s foot. And the latter took his revenge. The forward alone broke through the massive Zenit defense, throwing the ball between the legs of the ex-footballer of Sochi. However, his shot was not ideal and left Mikhail Kerzhakov with a chance to save his team, which he did. And in injury time Zabolotny did something similar, but he didn’t create any problems for the goalkeeper.

Semak couldn’t be satisfied with the performance of his players in the first half and at half time not only made the first substitution, but also switched the team to a different scheme. Instead of Vyacheslav Karavaev Dmitry Chistyakov was thrown into the fray and as a result Zenit switched to a formation with three central defenders. That kept CSKA’s dangerous approaches to the basket to a minimum. Even before that, the match didn’t abound in colorful episodes, but now it calmed down. In the first third of the half we can recall only Malcom’s free-kick. But no matter how much Claudinho charged his compatriot for success, he failed to help him hit the target.

The calm was broken by Chalov. An unremarkable, slow CSKA attack ended with an accurate shot by the forward from outside the box. He again shot poorly, but Douglas Santos, who got in the way, did a great job for Kerzhakov. A shot to the Brazilian’s shoulder disoriented the goalkeeper and prevented him from reacting.

With 18 minutes left in regulation time, the game finally came alive. Fedotov stepped up his defensive line by inserting Maksim Mukhin in place of Medina while Semak brought on his joker in Gustavo Mantuan. It was he who caught Akinfeev off guard in the first round and brought the Blues and Whites three points. This time he didn’t do anything spectacular. Others took the initiative. First, Malcolm checked his opponents’ alertness from outside the penalty box and then, following a corner, Cassierra jumped out on top. Mateo overpowered Moyses in the header but hit the post.

Alexey Sutormin, who came off the bench, could have been Zenit’s savior. Although no one prevented him from taking a shot on the wing, he was unable to save his team from their first defeat against CSKA since November 2018. Back then, Viktor Goncharenko’s charges scored twice (2-0), and Chalov not only scored himself, but also assisted Arnor Sigurdsson.

CSKA earned its second win after the championship resumption and tied in the standings with fourth-ranked Dinamo (both with 35 points). “Zenit, on the other hand, remained at the head of the championship, but could not increase their lead over Rostov. The St. Petersburg club has 48 points and is seven points ahead of its nearest rivals.

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