Spartak's problems and Semak's surprises

The confrontation between Zenit and Spartak has long been considered one of the most anticipated and fierce in Russian football.

And his presence in the program of the first round of the spring part of the season practically guaranteed the return of fans not only to the stadium, but also to the screens.

However, the red and white managed to attract additional attention to this meeting.

Quincy Promes especially distinguished himself here, as at the start of the match he was unable to fly out of the UAE.

And it gave reason to think about the possible termination of the contract with him.

However, Spartak’s difficulties were not limited to the absence of one of the best foreign players in the history of the RPL.

Due to injuries, Theo Bongonda, Ruslan Litvinov and Tomas Tavares could not enter the Gazprom Arena field, and the suspended Guillermo Abascal was not allowed to be on the coaching bridge.

No one forbade the Spaniard from being at the stadium, but he decided to abandon this prospect and remain at the club’s base.

And thus provoked the emergence of another wave of rumors about his future.

Against the backdrop of surrounding sports events, the choice of performers for one of the key matches of the season looked no less curious.

Thus, Manfred Ugalde, who only joined the red-white squad in the winter, got the opportunity to prove himself right away.

But if few people expected to see a Costa Rican pairing with Alexander Sobolev in attack, then finding Roman Zobnin in the right-back position is even more so.

Yes, the Russian has previously been used in this role several times, but in recent years he has acted in his usual place in the support zone.

True, Sergei Semak was not without surprises and left the main goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov on the bench.

Denis Adamov took his place in the frame, and two new recruits also found themselves in the starting lineup - defender Nino and right winger Arthur.

At the same time, Pedro and ex-Krasnodar midfielder Ilzat Akhmetov started the match in reserve.

Active pressing and minimum chances

At first, Zenit looked a little more confident as the host.

Semak's team had more control of the ball and often entered the opponent's third, making the opponent's defense nervous.

The pressure from the blue-white-blues gave her particular difficulties.

The Muscovites were unable to get out of the defense through a pass, and long throws to Sobolev and Ugalde almost did not reach the target.

And if Manfred at least moved well, worked in the tackling and generally looked ready to fight, then the same could not be said about Alexander.

Perhaps what made the Spartak players wake up a little was a dangerous moment at their goal, when only Daniil Khlusevich prevented the ball from crossing the line after an unsuccessful cut by Alexis Duarte.

The guests themselves turned on the pressure and discovered that the hosts do not always understand when to imitate Manchester City, and when to work more reliably and clear the ball away.

With a difference of several minutes, the red and white made two interceptions not far from someone else's penalty area, but failed to bring the matter to something serious.

First, Christopher Martins made a mistake with a pass, and then Sobolev was not quick enough.

The half that was not the most informative in terms of attacking actions was best illustrated by the statistics of shots on goal.

Spartak made all its attempts until the 24th minute - Alexis Duarte and Anton Zinkovsky shot wide twice each.

And Zenit bothered Alexander Maksimenko only in the final third of the half.

The hosts greatly stretched the opponent's defense, after which Douglas Santos found Arthur in the penalty area with a diagonal pass.

But the newcomer hit the goalkeeper.

And a little later Mateo Cassierra also missed.

Short surge and hibernation of leaders

There was no outbreak of activity immediately after the break.

Yes, in the first minutes of the second half, the teams exchanged dangerous attacks - the visitors responded to Cassierra’s shot from outside the penalty area with Ugalde’s shot into the far corner.

But after that there was a lull again.

It was interrupted only by violations of the rules, which slowly provoked disputes between the athletes.

But chief referee Sergei Karasev managed to extinguish passions, although they almost flared up both after Andrei Mostovoy fell in the Muscovites penalty area and after a foul on Alexander Sobolev.

The attacker could have developed a counterattack, but was stopped with the help of his hands by Strahinja Erakovic.

The Serb received a yellow card and kept company with Duarte, who was punished during the first 45 minutes.

A kind of “rust”, formed after a long absence of official matches, continued to be felt in the actions of the football players.

Both had problems with the last pass, and at times the players took an unusually long time to make decisions.

Some athletes didn’t seem to go into competitive mode at all.

In particular, the stars Claudinho and Wendel, who are usually responsible for creativity in Zenit, were invisible.

For the entire 90 minutes, they did not score a single key pass, which is extremely uncharacteristic for them.

At Spartak, it was as if there was no one to take over the game.

Ugalde tried, but he hardly received the necessary support.

And Zinkovsky and Medina clearly could not adequately compensate for the absence of Promes and Bongonda.

Sobolev was mostly in the shade, which is why he was the first to leave the lawn.

And he reacted extremely negatively to the decision of assistant coach Vladimir Slishkovich - he cursed rudely and immediately went to the room under the stands.

Pedro's debut and Ignatov's appearance

As a result, the opponents were unable to solve the problems with the play and execution until the final whistle.

Although there were chances to make them forget about them.

Zenit continued to attack through the right flank zone and several times took advantage of the sluggishness of Srdjan Babic and the positional errors of Khlusevich, but could not bring the matter to a goal.

The gift from Maksimenko, whose inaccurate pass almost led to a goal, did not help the St. Petersburgers either.

“Spartak” responded to this with a couple of quick counterattacks and hits on Medina’s target, but Adamov was on his guard.

One of the most memorable events of the second half was the appearance of Pedro on the field.

The young Brazilian made a very good impression and demonstrated phenomenal dribbling on several occasions, dealing with several opponents at a time.

Except that he couldn’t get rid of the ball in time.

True, the main character of the meeting could have been another football player who started it on the bench.

Mikhail Ignatov entered the field only in the 72nd minute, but not only managed to show Vilmar Barrios a yellow card, but also almost brought Spartak their first away victory over Zenit in the RPL since 2012.

But his low shot hit the post in the fourth minute of stoppage time, strengthening the Muscovites' advantage in shots - 11:6.