The match between Lokomotiv and Zenit was supposed to be the highlight of RPL Matchday 17. However, on the day of the game, the weather conditions came to the fore. Moscow was covered by a heavy snowfall. Despite this, the meeting between CSKA and Rostov, which started three hours earlier, was not canceled.
However, there were big questions about whether the players would take the field in Cherkizovo, since the RZD Arena was completely swept away. A tractor drove onto the field and began to clear the space next to the side lines. But the lawn itself was under a special protective film.
Just an hour before the scheduled starting whistle, it was announced that the start of the match was postponed by 30 minutes. Judge Alexei Sukhoi had to make the final decision based on the condition of the grass. However, the head coach of the Blue-White-Sky Blues Serhiy Semak admitted that he would not mind measuring his strength on another day.
"Everyone is in such conditions. It's a struggle, long passes. The ball is unlikely to roll. As simple as possible, as much struggle as possible. This equalizes the chances of the teams," Match TV quotes the coach as saying.
He was also supported by the sports director of the railwaymen, Dmitry Ulyanov, who called the conditions for the meeting abnormal.
"But there are regulations, the judges and delegates will decide. Today we play with the red ball. Is it worth switching to the spring-autumn system? Let's move on to... We'll play today, then we'll think about it," Sport-Express quoted the functionary as saying.
As a result, the team of referees at about 16:00 Moscow time made a verdict that the confrontation would take place. Moreover, by that time the snowfall had practically stopped.
On the one hand, as Semak noted, this played into the hands of the opponents, since the heavy field equalized the chances of the teams. On the other hand, the St. Petersburg team fielded an almost perfect line-up. Mateo Cassierra and Wendel, who missed the cup match against Dynamo, returned to the ranks. At the same time, the guests again relied on a scheme with three central defenders.
Lokomotiv started with Mario Mitai and Artyom Dzyuba, who were not even included in the squad for the Russian Cup game against Baltika. On the other hand, the disqualified Mikhail Galaktionov and captain Dmitry Barinov were absent. The place of the latter in the holding area was just taken by the Albanian. And the coach watched what was happening from the stands.
Semak seemed to be looking into the water when he predicted problems for his wards due to the weather. Although they actively started the meeting and did not fall on throws forward in the direction of Cassierra and Wilson Isidore, but tried to weave combinations in the opponent's half. The first moment was not long in coming. Ilya Lantratov coped with Claudinho's shot from the edge of the penalty area.
However, in the eighth minute, the visitors conceded out of the blue. After a corner, Mikhail Kerzhakov, who was not interfered with at all, tried to take the frozen slippery ball, but it treacherously jumped into the net from his stomach.
The reigning champions were forced to open up even more, which was gladly used by the fast, technical Sergey Pinyaev and Maxim Glushenkov. And the extremely motivated Dzyuba won one challenge after another and made discounts on his partners. In one of the episodes, Glushenkov removed a defender in the opponent's penalty area, but shot straight into the hands of Kerzhakov.
Gradually, however, Zenit's advantage became more and more noticeable. Claudinho and Wendel started attacks from the center and did a huge amount of work. Most often, Semak's charges tried to deliver the ball into the penalty area from the right flank, where Danylo Krugovoy was noticeable. Moreover, central defender Strahinja Eraković also climbed here. In the end, this move worked.
At first, the Red-Greens managed to hold back venerable opponents. Oleksandr Silyanov made tackles on the left side of the defence. Mitai and Artyom Karpukas did not spare themselves in the holding area. And the tall Lucas Fasson and Evgeny Morozov took off the entire top. But the team from the banks of the Neva began to have chances. For example, Morozov was able to cover Wendel's shot at the last moment, and Isidore was a little short of the finish.
Shortly before the break, the pressure of the St. Petersburg team still bore fruit. A tired Silyanov fell while trying to stop Erakovic and allowed him to make a perfect serve. Cassierra, who returned to the ranks, competently opened up between two opponents and sent the ball into the net from the goalkeeper's line with no chance for Lantratov. Thus, the Colombian with 13 goals strengthened the lead in the race of scorers of the tournament.
There was an impression that in the second half the guests would put the pressure on the opponents. In addition, immediately after the break, they were left without Karpukas, who unsuccessfully went into the fight with Wendel. The Brazilian unwittingly stepped on his ankle, and the young midfielder injured his knee. The courageous footballer, limping, left the field, a minute later tried to return, but immediately fell.
Instead, Loko's staff threw Anton Miranchuk into the fray. It seemed that this was not an equal replacement, because the latter is not so strong in destruction. However, the well-known saying "If there was no happiness, but misfortune helped" worked.
No sooner had the number 11 appeared on the pitch than he became the author of the assist. Nair Tiknizyan earned a dangerous set piece, and the midfielder delivered a cross into the penalty area. The short Glushenkov played amazingly in this episode, who neatly cut the ball into the far corner with his head from 15 meters. Douglas dos Santos did not even try to interfere with his opponent, clearly not expecting such a thing from him.
Now Zenit needed to equalize again, but the team did not succeed in almost anything. In case of a turnover, the Muscovites immediately turned on high pressure and tried to instantly regain possession. However, at one point, Pinyaev overdid it. On the flank, he flew into Claudinho's knee in an aggressive tackle. The Brazilian could not hold back his screams full of pain, but Sukhoi managed with a yellow card, and the assistants at VAR did not correct him. The Russian was saved from being sent off by the fact that the blow fell on a tangent, and the Latin American continued the game.
If the St. Petersburg team still moved to the opponent's half, the opponents blocked all free zones. Silyanov and Maxim Nenakhov were especially good on the flanks. In the end, the first one turned out to be the best both in terms of the number of tackles (three) and the number of takeaways (five).
As a result, after the break, the reigning champions simply did not have any dangerous moments. I only remember Nuraly Alip's shot from the edge of the penalty area right into the hands of Lantratov. Semak's castling did not save him either. In the end, he switched to a 4-4-2 formation and freshened up the edges. Mario Fernandez, Andrei Mostovoy and Gustavo Mantuan appeared on the field.
But in the end, Lokomotiv scored. The hosts again imposed a great fight in the opponent's half and made a tackle. Then the counterattack developed rapidly. Miranchuk found Dzyuba in the penalty area, and the latter handled the ball with his chest with his first touch, and with the second, not allowing it to fall to the turf, made a wonderful effective pass to Tiknizyan.
For the second time this RPL season, the Muscovites turned out to be stronger than the squad from the banks of the Neva. And the main character was again Glushenkov, who scored two points. The Blue-White-Sky Blues not only suffered their second defeat in the capital in five days, but also allowed Krasnodar to return to the top of the national championship table.