GROUP A (Champions group)
Guus Hiddink’s Anzhi were frustrated in their push for Europe while CSKA dropped more points on Zenit as their spring collapse continued in CSKA MOSCOW 0 – 0 ANZHI MAKHACHKALA. Both sides had chances to score but CSKA reserve ‘keeper Chepchugov kept his first clean sheet while CSKA were profligate.
Poor form for the Armymen has coincided with their loss of Akinfeev six months ago. The Russia goalkeeper’s return is now imminent but all too late to rescue their title challenge with CSKA now 11 points behind leaders Zenit. And speaking of poor form, Eto’o made it five games in a row that he hasn’t scored in, tarnishing a promising start to life in Dagestan with 8 from 11.
To make matters worse, when he was subbed-off here, Eto’o sat down on the CSKA bench for a chat with his opponents’ caching staff! Hardly a way to appease frustrated fans, an increasing number of whom are starting to question Eto’o's dedication and, indeed, the validity of his huge wages.
Zenit themselves only just secured all three points. LOKOMOTIV MOSCOW 0 – 1 ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG saw the wasteful Muscovites produce 21 shots but managing to land only four on target – and one of those was a saved Roman Pavlyuchenko penalty.
In truth, Zenit only managed four on target too but Roman Shirokov was left free inside the box from a corner to net his first league goal since September and give Zenit a decisive lead after 75mins. In defeat Loko’s bid for Europe now hangs by a thread as they cling to fifth place with Rubin just one point behind them.
The only consolation for Loko is that they remained level on points with Dynamo above them as they drew with the Kazan club. DYNAMO MOSCOW 1 – 1 RUBIN KAZAN saw the venerable Moscow team fail to beat Rubin for the sixth season in a row. Kazan manager Kurban Berdiev may clutch Rosary beads every game but the reason for the ‘hoodoo’ is rather more prosaic - Rubin’s continued obduracy (not to mention Dynamo’s perennial inconsistency).
Zvezdan Misimovic opened the scoring on 10mins, Kevin Kuranyi letting Rykov’s pass run through to the Bosnian who chipped-in. But Bibras Nathko’s free-kick after 68mins was met by the head of Nelson Valdez to equalise.
Rounding off the action in the Champions’ Group was SPARTAK MOSCOW 2 – 0 KUBAN KRASNODAR. Poor Kuban defending allowed Emenike a shot on goal with which he duly punished the visitors with an unerring finish after just seven minutes. And the Nigerian turned provider for strike-partner Ari to tap-in on 60mins, again soft defending from Dan Petrescu’s charges providing the initial opportunity.
Consequently, Spartak have surged into third place and look set to complete an amazing turn-around to their season after a dire start. They might yet even nick a Champions League place as they are now just one point behind second-place CSKA.
GROUP B (Relegation group)
AMKAR PERM 1 – 0 ROSTOV. The win here came courtesy of Aleksandru Gatcan’s unfortunate own goal after 69mins: his goalkeeper palms the ball against a stumbling Gatcan who inadvertently shovels the ball over the line with his arm! At least the ref let the goal stand and save him the indignity of a red card and penalty. Small mercies, eh? But let’s not overlook how this win made Amkar the most successful RPL team of 2012, winning five from six games since the Spring restart.
Krasnodar’s Pavel Golyshev is one of the more eye-catching young players involved in the Relegation Group and his opener on 45mins – his second from four starts – set Krasnodar on their way to all three points despite FC KRASNODAR 3 – 1 TOM TOMSK featuring the eleventh penalty awarded against Krasnodar this season, scored by Rebko to equalise on 68mins. But Martsvaladze put the home side infront again before Joaozinho applied the gloss with eight minutes to go.
Not a whole lot to report from VOLGA NIZHNY NOVGOROD 0 – 0 KRYLIYA SOVETOV SAMARA, a game that would have seen either side pull a little further away from the other as they duke-it-out over the relegation berths and hope to catch Rostov up in twelfth. However, check out this horrible shank by Anton Bober as he steps up to take a corner. Oh dear.
Nalchik were condemned to their sixth defeat in six games leaving them bottom of the pile and looking doomed, a whole 10 points from the even the outside chances of the relegation play-off places. The scoring in TEREK GROZNY 2 – 0 SPARTAK NALCHIK was started by Mauricio, who finished a fine flowing move with aplomb after 25mins. Piotr Polszak then doubled the lead with a thumping header on 83mins.
You can follow Alex on Twitter via @alrobjack
Tags: Anzhi Makhachkala, CSKA Moscow, Dynamo Moscow, Guus Hiddink, Lokomotiv Moscow, Samuel Eto'o, Spartak Moscow, Zenit St.Petersburg