MOSCOW, December 3 (R-Sport) – Zenit St. Petersburg faltered and Lokomotiv Moscow pounced, seizing the top spot in Russian Premier League football with a storming win in testing conditions.
The Railwaymen’s 3-1 dismantling of FC Kuban in driving rain Monday had everything Zenit’s dismal 1-1 draw at Terek Grozny lacked two days before - incisive, varied attacking play built on a solid defensive foundation.
Coach Leonid Kuchuk seemed wary of complacency when asked how it felt to top the table.
“It’s too early to congratulate us, thank you very much,” he said in televised comments.
Brazilian winger Maicon and Moroccan playmaker Mbark Boussoufa were on fine form for Lokomotiv, setting up goals for one another, while the Railwaymen’s ex-Tottenham Hotspur center-back Vedran Corluka put in an imperious performance capped with a headed goal at a free-kick.
Lokomotiv now leads the RPL from Zenit by two points after 18 of 30 games this season, with Spartak Moscow one point further back.
Zenit are now without a win in any of their last seven games, putting pressure on coach Luciano Spalletti, who admitted after Sunday’s draw in Chechnya that “maybe the coach is guilty" of the team's recent failings.
Meanwhile, Spartak smashed lowly FC Volga out of the park in a 6-1 win that was an impressive recovery from last week’s 1-0 derby loss to fierce rivals CSKA Moscow. There were two-goal hauls for Jose Jurado and Aras Ozbiliz, as well as a first Spartak goal for previously lukewarm striker Lucas Barrios, a summer signing.
CSKA stays fourth after failing to build on the derby victory, struggling to a limp goalless draw away to FC Rostov in which the reigning champions’ goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev saved CSKA’s skins on numerous occasions under pressure from RPL top scorer Artem Dzyuba.
Under-pressure Dynamo Moscow coach Dan Petrescu shored up his situation with a straightforward 3-0 win over relegation candidates Ural Yekaterinburg to rejoin the European place in fifth, seven points off leaders Lokomotiv.
Other Europa League contenders dropped to defeats, as FC Krasnodar went down 1-0 at Krylya Sovetov Samara and Amkar Perm lost 3-0 against Rubin Kazan, now up to 10th in a disappointing season for the former champions.
At the foot of the table, it continues to be an all-Caucasus affair in the relegation zone, where Terek and Anzhi Makhachkala occupy the two places in the drop zone.
Anzhi’s 2-0 loss at home to fellow strugglers FC Tomsk means they have still yet to win in 18 league games this season. Six more such games will break the Russian record, currently jointly held by Shinnik Yaroslavl and now-defunct Uralan Elista.
Tomsk and Ural are in the relegation playoff places.