Attendance: 43 382
Zenit: Lunev - Ivanovic - Rakitskyi - Smolnikov - Douglas Santos - Zhirkov (Kuzyaev, 85) - Ozdoev - Rigoni (Yerokhin, 46) - Barrios - Dzyuba - Azmoun (Shatov, 76)
Before the game our supporters greeted Alex Kral warmly. The young Czech, who played for Slavia as a holding midfielder, returned the favour. His welcome video was shown on-screen inside the stadium, Albeit Kral didn’t make the matchday squad on the occasion, he certainly felt the support.
Guliev caught the eye in the opening exchanges. First he was shown a yellow card, before unleashing a good low shot from a distance, which narrowly missed the post. Zenit responded in kind, Dzyuba grazing the outside of the post with his effort.
Half an hour in the stands let out a collective gasp: Schurrle came close to scoring from a free-kick, with a similar effort to his strike in Samara. But his shot went into the side netting. Three minutes later our dominance paid, Zelimkhan Bakaev’s effort finding the corner. Meshkov pointed to the centre, the stands erupted in a cheer, but then VAR intervened. The replays showed a handball from Bakaev and after watching the goal from different angles Meshkov ruled it out.
The visitors capitalized on this at the end of the half: Zhirkov unleashed a fine shot which found the top corner to ensure the teams went into the dressing rooms with a scoreline that favoured Semak’s side.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw more dominance from our team. On the hour Ayrton’s shot forced Lunev to parry right in front of him, but no one was on hand to finish on the rebound.
Ponce was introduced midway through the half. He spearheaded the attack, with Schurrle moving to the left and Bakev to the right. However this switch didn’t pay off. We also couldn’t capitalize on a handful of dangerous free-kicks. Ozdoev could have widened the margin in added time, but Maksimenko was alert to save.