Zenit rose above Juventus – Newspaper Kommersant No. 177 (7139) from 09/30/2021

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Zenit opened the scoring for Russian victories in the group stage of the current European competition. In the second round of the Champions League, he very convincingly defeated at home the weakest rival in his group H – Swedish Malmö – with a score of 4: 0.

It was that rare case for the last seasons, when in the European Cup match the domestic club can not only consider itself his undisputed favorite, but can also play as the undisputed favorite. Those who managed to acquire a persistent habit of preparing for the torment of Russian teams in continental tournaments must have experienced a strange feeling watching what was happening at the beginning of the St. Petersburg game. “Malmö” only had time to beat off one Zenith swoop, as the next one rolled, and the end of the waves was not in sight. And nothing definite could be said about Zenit’s line-up in those minutes. That is, for example, the set of players put on the field by Sergei Semak seemed to insist that Daler Kuzyaev’s position was in the depths of the field. But no, it was not difficult to mistake Kuzyaev for a forward as well – he rarely returned back, mainly helping his partners to torment the shriveled defense of Malmö.

It cracked very quickly. Zenit played the ball perfectly, not paying attention to the quantitative advantage of the defenders, and Claudinho, more and more like a strong club trump card, ideally opened up to a thin pass from Douglas Costa a little back. The Swedish goalkeeper Johan Dalin, of course, could not cope with the blow of the Brazilian in any way.

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Such overclocking tuned in for something absolutely enchanting, for an easy and graceful victory. Such, for example, was won in the first round over Malmö by Juventus, who beat him – 3: 0. But those who believed in her, rivals soon brought down from heaven to earth. The owners of the degree of aggressiveness, as if on a signal, lowered it lower, and “Malmö” showed that if you unclench the grip, and it can create something. And now Antonio-Mirko Cholak insidiously shot out from under Dmitry Chistyakov, and the ball rustled next to the goal frame. And then there was a moment even more dangerous. Malmö played a long and simple-looking combination, which resulted in a canopy with a “parachute” in the penalty area. At first glance, he did not conceal anything particularly unpleasant in himself, but Zenit allowed the rivals to make a discount, and it turned out to be gorgeous – right on the veteran Andreas Christiansen, who was running in to shoot goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk. Petersburgers were lucky: he fired above the gate.

On the sideline, Malmö head coach Jon-Dal Thomasson was already energized, and the stadium, which had just been cheerful, had included a disgruntled buzz in the repertoire. But at the end of the first half, “Zenith” slightly pleased him, at least taking the ball again, and immediately after the break, he quickly destroyed the intrigue, which seemed to hold out.

In the episode in which the Petersburgers scored the second goal, Yaroslav Rakitsky unexpectedly played. The central defender, he cleverly removed the opponent’s swing in the penalty area, as if these swings were his bread and butter throughout his career. Well, Rakitskiy’s “scoop” on the goalkeeper’s line after his feint was not bad. And in response to it, Daler Kuzyaev was already flying into the air. Then there was only how to nod your head.

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It may not have been Malmö’s verdict yet. The verdict was signed by a failure in defense. Daler Kuzyaev threw the ball past Anel Akhmedhodzhich, and he, interrupting the Zenit player’s one-on-one exit with the goalkeeper, brushed it off with his hand. The referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos in hot pursuit decided that the yellow card would be enough for Ahmedhodjic, but after looking at the VAR, he was convinced that, of course, the Malmö player should be sent off.

Then came a calm and completely satisfying Zenit game. He could not lose a colossal supply in the majority. And Alexey Sutormin took the chance to increase it, who put the third ball into Dalin’s goal with a neat shot, and Wendel, who successfully played on finishing. So Zenit did not just keep up with Juventus, but ahead of the Italian giant.

After two rounds of the group stage, the Petersburgers, who lost two weeks ago at a visit to Chelsea – 0: 1, – three points. And their current position in Group H determined the match between her favorites, in which Juventus hosted Chelsea late at night. Zenit will play against the Turin club at home in the third round on October 20.

Alexey Dospekhov

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