Zenit Shamed in Moscow Loss
Published: March 19, 2014 (Issue # 1802)
A difficult week for FC Zenit St. Petersburg was capped off by a 1-0 loss to reigning champions and bitter rivals CSKA Moscow on Mar. 15 as the club’s chances of retaking the Russian Premier League title took yet another blow.
Bulgarian midfielder Georgi Milanov’s stunning 32nd-minute strike was the difference in Zenit’s first game under interim manager Sergei Semak after Zenit’s Italian manager Luciano Spalletti was fired at the beginning of last week following a disappointing 0-0 home draw with relegation-threatened Tom Tomsk on Mar. 9.
Related: Midfielder Roman Shirokov Leaves Zenit for Krasnodar
Although Zenit outshot their opponents, they were unable to find a way past CSKA’s goalkeeper and Russia national team member Igor Akinfeev.
Zenit’s loss meant Lokomotiv Moscow expanded their lead at the top of the table to three points after drawing 0-0 with FK Amkar Perm on Sunday.
“Obviously the match didn’t put us in a good mood,” Semak told Zenit’s English-language website after the game. “We did alright at the beginning of the match, and were active on offense and reliable in defense, but the goal we allowed changed the course of the game.”
Related: St. Petersburg Football Team Zenit Fires Coach
Zenit now faces a difficult trip to Dortmund for the second-leg of their UEFA Champions League tie tonight against Borussia Dortmund, last year’s runners-up in the competition, in hope of overturning a two-goal deficit after losing 4-2 at home to the Germans in February.
Spalletti’s firing comes after Zenit’s seven-point lead at the top of the league disappeared due to a string of poor performances. Poor league form was the catalyst for the removal of Spalletti, who won the league twice with the St. Petersburg club.
Nicolas Lombaerts, the club’s Belgian defender, was quick to shift the blame for Spalletti’s firing away from the club. “If the coach is fired, the players should take a look at themselves,” he said following the loss to CSKA. “In the end, if he was fired, then we’re one of the main causes.”
On Tuesday, Zenit announced it had agreed to terms with Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas to replace Spalletti on a two-year contract. He will be officially introduced as Zenit’s new manager Thursday.
In other action from around the league, Rostov-on-Don won 2-0 in Samara against Kryliya Sovetov while Kuban Krasnodar dented Dinamo Moscow’s title hopes in a 1-1 draw on Mar. 15. On Sunday, asides from Lokomotiv’s 0-0 draw in Perm, Rubin Kazan won 3-1 at home over Volga Nizhny Novgorod. Both Monday games ended in draws as Tom Tomsk drew 1-1 with Krasnodar and Spartak Moscow drew 2-2 with Anzhi Makhachkala.