MOSCOW, September 1 (R-Sport) – Veteran midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov fired in a winner five minutes from time to save Zenit St. Petersburg's blushes and secure all three points in a 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow, who had played most of the game with ten men.
The visitors had defied their one-man disadvantage to level the scores at 1-1 with the impressive Mbark Boussoufa slotting home a 70th-minute penalty when Igor Smolnikov handled in the box.
Roman Shirokov had put Zenit ahead with a penalty four minutes from the end of the first half, and Lokomotiv had new signing Lassana Diarra sent off fouling him.
The result sees Zenit overtake Lokomotiv into second place, cutting CSKA Moscow's lead to three points. Loko's second defeat of the season leaves them a point behind in joint third with FC Rostov.
"Lokomotiv can fight for the title this year," Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti acknowledged in televised comments. "We had a great first half, even though Lokomotiv hit the post twice. We created chances consistently throughout the game."
Axel Witsel was denied from close range by Lokomotiv goalkeeper Ilya Abaev as Zenit looked to seize the initiative early on, but it was the visitors who came closest to scoring as Boussoufa rattled the post with a free-kick.
Andrei Arshavin then combined well with Alexander Kerzhakov on the edge of the box, but the former Arsenal man fired wide.
At the other end, Boussoufa hit the same upright on 34 minutes after Alexander Samedov had beaten Tomas Hubocan down the right and supplied a pinpoint cross for the Dutch-Moroccan winger, who along with Diarra was playing in his second game for Lokomotiv since moving from Anzhi Makhachkala.
The pivotal moment came on 41 minutes, when Diarra was adjudged to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity to Shirokov by hauling him down in the box as he lined up a strike at goal.
The Russia international stroked his spot-kick confidently into the left corner for his second league goal of the season.
The second half saw Zenit maintain their possession advantage, but Loko appeared dangerous on the counterattack. Brazilian forward Maicon forced a smart save out of Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin on 66 minutes.
And Zenit right-back Smolnikov handled in the box to give Loko a way back into the match. Lodygin guessed correctly, but Boussoufa's spot-kick was too well-placed and the visitors were level.
But Zenit chipped away and the winner eventually came. Miguel Danny, who had had a quiet game by his standards, skipped past two defenders down the left and centered it for Zyryanov, who side-footed calmly into the corner to secure the hosts a barely-deserved win.
In other games this weekend, CSKA Moscow came from a goal behind to beat Amkar Perm 2-1; Terek Grozny and Anzhi Makhachkala shared the points in a 1-1 draw in the Caucasus derby; and FC Krasnodar brushed aside FC Volga 3-0 thanks to a brace from Brazilian forward Wanderson.
Later, Spartak Moscow hosts FC Tomsk; FC Kuban travels to Samara to play Krylya Sovetov, and Dynamo Moscow hosts FC Rostov.