March 23, 2023


The champion arrived in the capital extremely upset by Dynamo’s unexpected exit from the Russian Cup, and even in his own field. Now the club has one task left – to win the Russian championship for the fifth time in a row. The task is quite technical, given the superiority of Sergei Semak’s team in the selection of performers and the instability of the so-called pursuers. The day before, Spartak lost in Orenburg and allowed Rostov to take second place.

However, it was important for Semak to win at the VEB Arena in order to get the team back into good shape. The statistics spoke in favor of this result: in six previous meetings with the army team, she has won consistently and has not lost since 2018. Against – The absence of the most important destroyer in the midfield of the injured Wilmar Neighborhoods. His role was taken by the versatile Douglas Santos, while Claudinho moved into the top three. The vacancy on the left flank of the defense went to Daniil Krugovoy, who only appeared once from the opening minutes in this RPL draw.

Photo source: Vyacheslav Evdokimov / FC Zenit

CSKA also approached this match in a good mood. Firstly, last weekend they finally managed to win in the Premier League (4:0 with Krylya Sovetov), ​​and in the middle of the week they drew a difficult match for the Cup in Samara (2:2). And secondly, on the eve of the meeting with Zenit, more than eight hundred (!) fans came to the team training. Fan ID took them out of the stands, but fans find opportunities to interact with their favorites. Naturally, this training was very sincere.


The first half showed that in the absence of Barrios, Zenit needed two Douglas Santos, in midfield and in the usual position on the left in defense. Because without him, the Petrograders just don’t have anyone to get the ball off defense. Vladimir Fedotov, like a master tactician, read this development of events, and CSKA from the first minutes began to press the opponent very hard, which completely destroyed their game.

Nobody was lazy in this pressure, and Fedor Chalov and Anton Zabolotny even scored it for the national team in the opposite field (the latter, however, with a foul that Sergei Karasev missed). The blue and whites did not find a clear recipe, but Claudinho sank very deep situationally on several occasions. He has enough technique to keep the ball under pressure.

Photo source: Vyacheslav Evdokimov / FC Zenit

As a result, the first half of the time was dictated by the hosts, and the most prominent person was Jesús Medina, whom the partners beat out time and again. The only pity is that the Paraguayan categorically lacks any type of blow dealt.

Akinfeev VS Kerzhakov

“Zenith” for the first time had the honor of hitting only half an hour later, but immediately after Igor Diveev’s injury (for no apparent reason, he grabbed his side and was replaced by Kirill Nababkin) created a killer moment – Daler Kuzyaev found Mateo. Cassierra in the penalty area with a soft and penetrating pass in the play, whose corner shot Igor Akinfeev took out from point-blank range. It’s a shame for Diveev, who hasn’t played in the RPL since September! He took so long to recover, and again some health problems…

However, the army team was not left in debt. At the end of the half, they also had two big attacks. Chalov completed the first, breaking through the palisade of the defenders’ legs, but Kerzhakov managed to react, then the teammates brought Zabolotny to the ball, but he awkwardly picked up the ball.

Photo source: Vyacheslav Evdokimov / FC Zenit

Semak needed to do something and decided to change the scheme. Dmitry Chistyakov replaced Vyacheslav Karavaev, and Zenit switched to a three central defender game with Krugov and Kuzyaev on the flanks.


The changes worked. St. Petersburg really took the initiative after the break – they began not only to have more possession of the ball, but also to do it much more significantly and further from their goal. Better control of the ball led to the fact that the army team lost the advantage of counterattacks. Simply because the interceptions/tackles have become much less, and in the other half they have completely disappeared. Troika Medina – Zabolotny – Chalov was left without the ball and without prospects.

However, football is not always logical. In the 72nd minute, CSKA made a rather slow positional attack, which Chalov tried to finish off with a not very strong and dangerous shot from long range, but the ball bounced off Douglas Santos and jumped into the far corner. Kerzhakov did not have time to adjust to the new trajectory and reach out.

Then began a tactical duel of coaches. Semak substituted the inert Claudinho for Mantua, Fedotov responded by sending defensive midfielder Maxim Mukhin in place of the ineffective Medina. The finish turned out to be nervous and could end with anything, but the army team turned out to be more on point and defended the victory, allowing them to close the gap from third place to five points. Zenit still has a fairly reliable seven-point lead over Rostov.

RPL. twentieth round

CSKA – Zenit – 1:0 (0:0)

Goal: Chalov, 72 – 1:0.

CSKA: Akinfeev, Rosha, Diveev (Nababkin, 34), Moizes, Gaich, Zdelar, Mendes, Oblyakov, Medina (Mukhin, 75), Chalov, A. Zabolotny.

Zenit: Kerzhakov, Karavaev (Chistyakov, 46), Rodrigao, Renan, Krugovoi (Erokhin, 82), D. Santos, Kuzyaev (Z. Bakaev, 90), Wendel (Sutormin, 90), Malcolm, Claudinho (Mantuan, 74) , Casierra.

Yellow cards: Rodrigao, 37. Rocha, 54.

Referee: Karasev (Moscow).

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