The Superliga returned after another international break and matchday eleven certainly started with a bang. Let’s recap the action.
League leaders CSKA opened the Superliga’s latest round fixtures on Friday by welcoming bottom-dwellers Chertanovo. On paper, it seemed a pretty straightforward affair, with the visitors still looking for their first point of the season and CSKA, who will host two-time Estonian champions and serial cup winners Flora in the Champions League tomorrow, looking well on course to retain their domestic league title. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
To everybody’s surprise, Chertanovo opened the scoring after just seven minutes through a nice turn and finish from Kristina Komissarova. What followed was an unrelenting barrage of attacks from the hosts and even though Chertanovo held firm until half time, you just could not see them coming away from this game unscathed, given how poor they’ve been this season.
But when the game entered its final 20 minutes with the score still at 1-0, it seemed as though they would. And when the usually so reliable Nadezhda Smirnova missed a penalty in the 77th minute, it felt like one of those days for CSKA. Alas, their pressure did eventually pay off when substitute Yulia Pleshkova equalized with her face (or shoulder?) after a Smirnova corner. It was a nice bit of redemption for the 18-year-old, who has fallen out of favor of late and after a call-up to the senior national team last month, dropped back down to the U19s in the recent international break.
The game finished 1-1; Chertanovo, defying the odds, finally collected their first point of the season and CSKA kept their hopes of an invincible season alive – something which they fell short of at the last hurdle last season – but it was somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory – or, well, draw – for the hosts, as at least two, maybe even three, players suffered injuries. Margarita Chernomyrdina replaced Anastasia Pozdeeva early on and put in another great shift off the back of a terrific performance against Turkey with Russia a few days earlier; it boggles the mind that she isn’t a starter for CSKA.
It will be interesting to see how the league leaders respond to this disappointing result, but they certainly can’t dwell too much on it because games are coming thick and fast. Besides their Champions League clash with Flora tomorrow, they also have a cup final to look forward to after beating Ryazan before the break, although when that game will take place is anyone’s guess, as the other side of the bracket has been disrupted by COVID – Yenisey and Zvezda are yet to play their quarterfinal match and the winner will then have to play Lokomotiv.
On Saturday, Zvezda welcomed Krasnodar to Perm. Both sides certainly had their chances – the bar was rattled a couple of times – but the game finished as a goalless draw. Elsewhere, Yenisey lined up for their first game in what felt like ages against a Ryazan side, which, as things stand, will cease to exist next month. Two quick, early Ryazan goals proved decisive as the guests ran out 2-0 victors.
The matchday’s main event saw the debut of a new Superliga broadcasting partner, as Saint-Petersburg-based TV provider Tricolor took over streaming duties for Zenit versus Lokomotiv Moscow. This was the first of a handful of matches Tricolor will show between now and the end of the season.
Lok put Zenit under pressure straight from kick-off, but despite the onslaught, the home side managed to hold firm until late in the first half. The deadlock was ultimately broken by Marina Fedorova in the 40th minute and thanks to late goals from Nelli Korovkina and Lina Yakupova, Lok won the game 3-0. You didn’t fancy Zenit’s chances to get more than a point from this game, but you still would’ve hoped for a better performance from Olga Poryadina’s team; it was yet another worryingly toothless performance.