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Terek Grozny 3-2 Zenit St. Petersburg: Late Theatrics Slay Zenit Rally

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Terek Grozny 3-2 Zenit St. Petersburg: Late Theatrics Slay Zenit Rally

Week Two in the "second season" of the Russian Premier League saw a distinct match of contrasting identities: Zenit St. Petersburg has been the league's most dominant team at home, but one of its worst on the road.

Travelling to Grozny wasn't going to help anything.

Sultan Bilimkhanov's Stadium has never done any favors for Peter's men. The small venue of a shade over 10,000 fans always tends to be a wild atmosphere. It's no surprise that Terek, despite being a second-tier team, have only failed to earn points once at home.

Zenit will start by playing a horrific 4-5-1, while Terek fields an equally horrendous 3-6-1.

Zenit begins an incredibly edgy first half controlling most of the possession, most of the play being carried out in the midfield. The first honest chance of the match came in the 12th minute after Pavel Pogrebnyak completely missed a header inside.

The ball would float safely away until it was picked up by Konstantin Zyryanov along the far sideline. The Russian international fired a juicy pass back inside, but Igor Denisov couldn't do much with it, with a routine save by the Grozny keeper.

Roman Shirokov provided a much more serious test for Dikan a few moments later, as he floated a knuckling shot in from distance. The shot itself looked completely innocent until the last possible second, when it dove and forced a save.

Terek's Brazilian defender Cleber took a very hard shot right off the face, drawing a reaction from the local crowd. Shirokov hears the jeers.

Yet another chance for Shirokov came a few minutes later, as back wing Anyukov feeds him inside. His header is missed badly to the left.

But Terek finally starts to get forward, and they earn themselves their first corner of the evening. Although it looked dangerous, no harm done and trouble averted for Zenit. An excellent pass back inside changes all that immediately.

Bulgarian international midfielder Blagoy Georgiev takes the pass and zooms through Zenit defense, deflecting a close range shot in off Tomas Hubocan's knee. There is absolutely nothing the keeper can do but watch it drift into the back of the net.

1-0 Terek Grozny.

Let the fireworks begin.

As play resumes, Denisov and Georgian midfielder Levan Gvazava engage in a shouting match in the center circle. Gvazava obviously wasn't a fan of what Denisov was selling and shoved him backwards. Immediate yellow card.

Zenit pushes hard for an immediate answer, but nothing comes. Any ball delivered inside is being won by Terek.

Around the 30th minute, Pogrebnyak takes a yellow on a tackle. To be completely honest, the tackle shouldn't have even been a foul the way this match was playing out. Pavel protests to no avail and we play on. 

Moments later, Pogrebnyak takes a feed from Zyryanov and has a free run into the box. That is, until he is met with a very aggressive challenge by Terek defender Sergey Omelyanchuk. No foul.

20-year old Aleksei Ionov's only positive contribution of the match came on a distance shot that missed wide by several inches. Goalkeeper Dikan looks to the sky to thank his lucky stars.

The half comes to a screeching end in predictable fashion. 

Hubocan takes a free—swinging elbow to the face and the Moscow—based referee turns a cold shoulder.

Terek strolls off the pitch with a halftime lead.

Departing Zenit boss Dick Advocaat doesn't like a few things, and rightly so. Hubocan, who couldn't have ever played a worse half of football in his career, was immediately substituted in favor of Hungarian midfielder Sszabolics Huszti.

Zenit's lone spring signing had not seen much playing time, but that was when Anatoliy Tymoschuk was captain. Tymoschuk now plays for Bayern Munich.

Ionov and Pogrebnyak open the opportunities for Zenit. Neither come close to capitalizing. Korean defender Dong-jin Kim has his first quality chance of the match, but he makes a mess of it thanks to some staunch defense by Terek.

Eight men for Zenit are forward, and Terek now has a golden counter-attacking opportunity. Midfielder Shamil Lahiyalov takes a pass in stride, rockets past Shirokov, and beats Contofalsky to the far post.

2-0 Grozny.

The crowd is delirious. Absolutely out of their minds. The formal salute between Lahiyalov and Georgiev as a celebration only increases the stadium ecstasy.

Zenit once again tries to catch Terek napping after the goal, but it fails. Instead, Terek finds themselves going forward. But in their burst of adrenaline, they manage to miss empty nets on two separate occasions. 

The second saw Konstantin Zyryanov playing goal because Contofalsky had been pulled so far out.

Zyryanov however, would advance the ball almost the entire way up the field, taking a shot that rang off the post. Ionov attempted to head it out of the air, but came down awkwardly and eventually had to be assisted off.

Not that it mattered, he played a poor match. He would be substituted in the 70th minute in favor of lanky Belgian defender Nicolas Lombaerts, who was making his first appearance since 2007 due to injury.

The additions of Huszti and Lombaerts helped immediately.

Zenit began to put pressure on the now ultra-defensive Terek back line, and Huszti found the golden boot. Taking a feed inside, he chipped it through defenders into the far corner. The men from Peter's City have halved the lead.

And like magic, Zenit had life.

Too much life for Terek. It took a matter of seconds before the lead completely evaporated.

Pogrebnyak and Igor Semshov fly in together and Pogrebnyak finally capitalizes off a feed from the late-arriving Zyryanov. Tie game. Dikan can't go that low to make the save.

Terek Grozny 2, Zenit St. Petersburg 2.

Rapid fire substitutions on both sides now. Radek Shirl comes on for Kim, and Terek makes two changes. Once again, Zenit is getting forward against a team locked into defense, and Pogrebnyak misses what seems like his 47th header chance of the match.

Any clearing attempt by Terek is fielded down by Lombaerts, who is flying around like a man possessed. It's incredibly obvious that he's missed being on the pitch for all those long months.

But Terek finally open up, and get a free kick. Dangerous once more. Romanian Florentin Petre was signed to do just that. His ball is tempting, but is cleared by Lombaerts. Another try.

The second time was more lucky. Defender Valentin Iliev took it out of the air with his right foot and slammed the chance home to give the locals back the lead.         

Iliev doesn't score much apparently.

He rips his shirt off and runs to the Terek sideline, where he is promptly showered in Gatorade from his teammates. A sticky, sweaty mess. Zenit now has five minutes to tie the game again. 

But they weren't about to fold just yet. As stoppage time began, Zyryanov was trying to push forward again. Some slick passing lead to a chance for Denisov from distance. But the match got ugly in a hurry.

Cleber bats the shot out of the air in the box with his left arm, causing an uproar from Advocaat's side. Fernando Meira, Shirl, Denisov and Anyukov all mob the referees, who will ridiculously have none of it. Meira and Denisov are both handed yellows. But it's hardly over as a few Terek players jump into the feud too.

Pushing and shoving all around. After eight minutes of stoppage time, the refs blow the match dead. Terek holds on for victory.

Always animated Terek boss Vyacheslav Hrozny runs onto the pitch to delight of the fans and begins to dance a jig. A very interesting spectacle from the 53-year-old Ukrainian.

 

Zenit Notes

  • Pavel Pogrebnyak had far too many chances today as a center-forward. In complete honesty, he should have at least had a hat trick. Zenit's need for a second striker has become even more evident.
  • Sszabolics Huszti finally proved he belonged on the pitch full-time. He was awarded a match rating of 8.1, best of any Zenit player.
  • Ivica Krizanac was missed badly. The coveted Croatian central defender has been an immobile force.
  • Zenit has managed only one win in eight tries away from the Petrovsky.
  • Terek played with grit and energy that was never matched by Advocaat's men. But also, Zenit has played three times in a week, including the Russian Cup.
  • Zenit now thankfully will travel back home, where they face top team Rubin Kazan in St. Petersburg six days from today.    
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