No Fans, No Problem: Zenit Wins Big
Published: August 13, 2014 (Issue # 1824)
Zenit St. Petersburg’s strong start to the Russian Premier League season continued this past weekend as they demolished league newcomers Torpedo Moscow 8-1 at an empty Petrovsky Stadium on Aug. 9, tying the club’s record for largest win ever in a league game.
Still serving an attendance ban after Zenit’s ultras rushed the field in the waning moments of the final home game of the 2013-14 season, a 4-2 loss to rivals Dinamo Moscow that was later changed to a 3-0 forfeit in favor of the Muscovites, the St. Petersburg club ripped apart the visitors without the usual cacophony of rabid noise.
For the second league game in a row, Zenit was up 3-0 by halftime, this time thanks to goals from Russian right-back Igor Smolnikov, Brazilian forward Hulk and Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon, who scored for the third game in a row.
Zenit’s lead was boosted in the second half by another goal from Rondon, who has now scored 12 times in the 16 games he’s played for Zenit since joining midway through last season from Rubin Kazan. Russian midfielder Oleg Shatov added a goal after Hulk scored from the penalty spot and Russian striker Alexander Kerzhakov finished the rout with two more goals, including one from the penalty spot. Torpedo bagged a consolation in the 86th minute after Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel brought down Torpedo substitute Alexander Salugin in the penalty box.
The club’s win on Aug. 9 capped off an impressive week for the club that saw them take firm control of the top of the league table after two games with a whopping goal differential of plus 11 as well as rescue their UEFA Champions League campaign with a 3-0 victory over Cypriot club AEL Limassol on Aug. 6.
Zenit needed to overturn a one-goal deficit after losing in Cyprus on July 30. Zenit’s task was made easier after AEL’s Danielzinho got his second yellow card after only 26 minutes played.
The St. Petersburg club finally made the breakthrough at the beginning of the second half when Rondon headed them into the lead. Portuguese midfielder Danny’s tap-in in the 88th minute gave Zenit the aggregate lead before Kerzhakov scored a penalty in the 91st minute to round out the win.
Zenit still has one more qualifying hurdle before they can take part in the group stage of the Champions League. Their next opponent is Belgian club Standard Liege, which defeated Greek runner-ups Panathinaikos 2-1 in Athens to advance. They will play two games, one home and one away, to determine who goes through.
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