MOSCOW, August 17 (R-Sport) - A debut goal from Cristian Ansaldi capped a comfortable 3-0 win for Zenit St. Petersburg over a depleted Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League on Saturday.
Zenit's third win of the season in five games - although just their first without conceding - sends Luciano Spalletti's men to the top of the table at this early stage, sharing the lead with Spartak Moscow and FC Rostov on 10 points. Anzhi remain winless and stuck in 14th position.
"We prepared right for this game, and went into it with the right attitude," said Zenit assistant coach Marco Domenichini.
Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev gave a frank assessment of what he saw.
"Today we have no team," he said in comments relayed by Anzhi over Twitter. "But we have players who can and will play better."
Roman Shirokov put Zenit ahead in simple fashion on 25 minutes, slotting into the corner after Alexander Bukharov had spotted a defensive gap and supplied the killer ball.
Hulk doubled their lead with rare finesse just before half time, the Brazil star collecting the ball 25 yards out and passing it gracefully into the top corner of Mikhail Kerzhakov's goal.
The third came on 72 minutes as Ansaldi, the Argentinian who switched from Rubin Kazan over the summer, steered the ball expertly into the near corner after a neat Miguel Danny setup from the left flank.
The billionaire-backed Anzhi were playing their first league game since an exodus of big-name players began last week as the club slashes its budget dramatically. The Russian international trio of Igor Denisov, Yuri Zhirkov and Alexander Kokorin joined Dynamo Moscow, with Mbark Boussoufa leaving for Lokomotiv Moscow.
Those they seem intent to sell were not included in Gadzhiev's squad, except Cameroonian star Samuel Eto'o, who was picked.
It appeared it would be a more even contest as the sides exchanged chances early on.
Zenit forward Alexander Bukharov sent an early overhead kick over the crossbar with the goalkeeper in no man's land.
Then Samuel Eto'o forced Yuri Lodygin into an excellent reflex save with a 20-yard looping shot.
After Shirokov's opener, the visitors should have equalized on 34 minutes but Mehdi Carcela Gonzalez blazed over when clean through on goal.
Zenit switched up a gear and missed a glaring chance to go two up as Bukharov side-footed straight at the goalkeeper. It came, however, through Hulk in a cool and calculated effort from distance.
In the second half, Kerzhakov raced out to save brilliantly from Bukharov, thwarting his fellow Russia's deft chip. Eto'o stung Lodygin's palms from 20 yards soon after.
But the matter was settled with 20 minutes to go as Ansaldi crowned a solid debut with a deserved goal.
Earlier in the day, Ural Yekaterinburg and Amkar Perm played out a drab 0-0 draw. Later Saturday, Terek Grozny host Lokomotiv Moscow.