Zenit eye title after CSKA win
Reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg increased their lead in the Russian Premier League with a confident 2-0 home win over closest chasers CSKA Moscow on Saturday to move within sight of the title.
Zenit midfielders Vladimir Bystrov and Andrei Arshavin scored one goal apiece to ensure all the points and take the defending champions within one win of a second consecutive title.
The result left Zenit on top of the table with 80 points from 39 matches, 14 points ahead of second-placed CSKA, who only have a slim chance of catching Zenit with just five matches to play. Spartak Moscow, who take on Rubin Kazan on Sunday, sit third on 65 points.
"It was a very good match from any point of view," Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti said. "CSKA were looking better in the first half, but after the break my players shrugged off the pressure and clinched a very important win over the strongest of all our rivals."
In the 24th minute, CSKA's Czech forward Tomas Necid had an excellent chance for an opening goal as his powerful shot from the edge of the area was cleared by Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev for a corner. From the corner, the Red Army side's Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia sent an eight-metre shot over the crossbar.
Zenit replied with a dangerous attack, but Konstantin Zyryanov and Alexander Kerzhakov missed a 20th-minute opportunity.
Zenit took the lead in the 63rd minute when Bystrov scored his first goal of the season, heading in from two metres from Kerzhakov's cross. CSKA battled for an equaliser, but without injured midfielders Keisuke Honda and Alan Dzagoev they failed to create any serious threat.
Second-half substitute Arshavin added the second goal, which was also his first for the club this season, in the 89th minute firing a 12-metre volley into the net also from a Kerzhakov cross. "The match was decided by just one mistake," CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky said. "Unfortunately we were the side, who made this mistake."
Lokomotiv Moscow failed to regain third spot as they were held to a 1-1 draw by the hosts Kuban at Krasnodar. Russian international striker Roman Pavlyuchenko got the best of defender Igor Armash to fire the ball into the net from ten metres to put the railway-backed side into the lead just after hour mark.
But Kuban's Armenian striker Marcos Pizelli pulled the scores level with a well-struck 20-metre free-kick with 16 minutes to go.