Zenit march on, CSKA survive scare

Russian Premier League leaders Zenit St Petersburg battled back from two goals down to thrash Novosibirsk 5-2 away from home in a seven-goal thriller today.

Zenit now have 63 points from 28 matches, nine points ahead of second-placed CSKA Moscow, who have a game in hand. Reigning champions Rubin Kazan, who play Spartak Moscow tomorrow, are third also on 54 points.

Novosibirsk stunned visitors Zenit by taking the lead after just one minute through halfback Ivan Nagibin, who beat Zenit goalkeeper Yury Zhevnov with a shot inside his left post. Polish striker Bartolomei Grzelak made it 2-0 for the hosts just four minutes later poking the ball home from close range past a helpless Zhevnov.

Zenit replied positively pinning Novosibirsk back and reduced the arrears in the 13th minute through Russian international midfielder Vladimir Bystrov. Zenit levelled the scores at 2-2 in the 15th minute, when Novosibirsk's French midfielder Steve Josef-Renett sent the ball into his own net in an attempt to clear a dangerous freekick by Portuguese midfielder Danny.

The visitors were in total command now but had to wait until the 61st minute to increase their lead, when Danny fired home from Konstantin Zyryanov's short cross. Second-half substitute midfielder Sergei Semak and full back Alexander Anyukov added one apiece to secure a well-deserved win for Zenit.

"It was a very difficult match as the hosts started very strongly and posed plenty of problems for us," Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said. "But my men showed their worth by playing confidently throughout the match and managed to win."

Meanwhile, CSKA remained in the race for domestic title with a 4-3 home win over Samara. Defender Alexei Berezutsky put them into the lead in the third minute scoring with a header from a well-served freekick. Five minutes later Czech striker Tomas Necid added a goal by firing home after a cross from Chilean teammate Mark Gonzalez, while Zoran Tosic made it 3-0 in the 67th minute.

But Samara refused to surrender and narrowed the gap through Oleg Ivanov and Brazilian Leilton, who scored one apiece within ten minutes before Necid made it 4-2 for CSKA with one minute to go with his second of the match. Sergei Tkachev netted Samara's third in injury time but failed to save the day for his side.

With all the goals scored in those two games, there were none left for Alania Vladikavkaz and Lokomotiv Moscow, who shared the points from a 0-0 draw, notable only for the 28th minute dismissal of Lokomotiv's Jan Durica.