Lok Drop Points Again While CSKA, Zenit Keep Chugging Along

Matchday number six of the Russian Superliga saw yet more drama at the top of the table as Lokomotiv Moscow drew again, while CSKA are seemingly playing themselves back into form. Let’s recap the action.

Tuesday’s solitary game between Yenisey and Zenit had the makings of a gripping affair, with both teams going into the match off the back of picking up their first win of the season at the weekend. However, the match, unfortunately, didn’t quite deliver as promised. Much of the encounter was contested in midfield, as the two sides tried in vain to penetrate the other’s defense. Zenit had more of the skirmish but ultimately failed to land any decisive punches. Whenever Yenisey ventured forward, they looked quite threatening, but they, too, never managed to really trouble Yulia Grichenko. After a stunning performance against Chertanovo, Zenit’s Nika Belova didn’t have the best of games against her local club.

With the match threatening to end in a goalless stalemate, Zenit gave it one final push deep into stoppage time, and they were actually rewarded for their efforts, would you believe it? A desperate yet incisive pass from Elena Shesterneva split Yenisey’s defense in two, before Tatyana Morina ran onto the ball and blasted, nay, absolutely smashed it into the back of the net, breaking Siberian hearts and leaving young goalkeeper Angelina Tsirulnikova dumbfounded. Zenit close the gap to Krasnodar and Ryazan in mid-table, but this will be a tough pill to swallow for Yenisey.

Wednesday’s action began in Perm, with Zvezda hosting CSKA. There were some baffling personnel decisions made on both sides and it showed early on in the game. The hosts took to the field with Anna Akimova, arguably their most naturally gifted attacker, playing at left-back, while their guests from Moscow lined up with no fewer than three full-backs in their starting eleven. Olga Chernova, their nominal left-back on the day, started the game at right-back, before pivoting into central midfield for a minute or two until she finally settled into her actual position seven or eight minutes after the game had started.

Honestly, it was a weird match. Just weird. Both sides failed to take control of the contest and it was a back and forth affair without ever really providing the entertainment or quality you would expect from a clash between first and third. It seems as though CSKA are slowly playing themselves back into form after a brief slump, but in all honesty, it never looked like they really got out of third gear in this game. Luckily for the defending champions, though, they didn’t have to. After some confusion in the box off a corner kick, center-back Maria Alekseeva poked the ball home in the 37th minute, which ultimately proved to be the game-winner.

When all was said done, it turned out to be somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory for CSKA. Following a shot to the head which seemed to knock her out for at least a couple of seconds, striker Valeria Bizenkova was allowed to continue in a stomach-churning show of contempt for reasonable thinking by the coach and medical staff, and goalkeeper Elvira Todua had to come off late in the game after suffering what appeared to be a hamstring injury. With those three points, the champions have thus ensconced themselves atop the standings, while Zvezda stay in third.

Next up was a clash that didn’t look like the most enticing encounter on paper, but turned out to be the best game of the round, at least in terms of goalscoring. Krasnodar hosted a reeling Chertanovo side still in search of their first point of the campaign. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was yet another awful showing from the youngsters of Chertanovo and they were, once again, well beaten.

A stunning strike from the edge of the box by Alena Guseva opened the scoring in the 28th minute and Krasnodar doubled their lead just a few moments later through Elena Kostareva’s third goal of the season. Despite plenty of chances handed to the home side by the gracious Chertanovo defense – if you can call it that – it took them until the 78th minute to find the back of the net once more. 17-year-old Medea Zharkova got away from her defender with a nice little shimmy before neatly stroking the ball home. Krasnodar would again make it two in quick succession when Milena Boldyreva scored their fourth and final goal just 6 minutes later. Chertanovo just cannot get out of their rut.

The final game of the round brought the curtain down on a strange matchday in the most fitting fashion imaginable – with a 0-0. Ryazan welcomed Lokomotiv Moscow, who surrendered their top-of-the-table position last week following a draw with Perm. The Moscow outfit was keen on redemption, but redemption never came.

Numerous last-ditch saves from Ryazan ‘keeper Margarita Shirokova kept Lok off the scoreboard and yes, it’s an old cliché, but when Marina Fedorova missed not one but two shots on an open goal, you could tell that it was going to be One Of Those Days. The game ended all square and every ounce of momentum Lokomotiv had left after last week has just come to a screeching halt. They are still only two points off CSKA, but Elena Fomina will not be a happy camper.

The Superliga’s ridiculously relentless schedule won’t be easing up anytime soon and the next round of fixtures is perhaps the tastiest one since opening day. Monday’s action starts off with Ryazan hosting Zvezda, and it continues with the two Moscow behemoths squaring up and the league’s two worst teams, Yenisey and Chertanovo, facing off. The final game is a clash between the new kids on the block, when the in-form Zenit welcome Krasnodar.

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