Zenit charge continues as Russian league resumes

 Zenit St Petersburg maintained their lead in the Russian Premiership with a solid 3-0 win over visitors Ural Yelaterinburg on Saturday when the league resumed following the winter lay-off.

AFP| Updated: Mar 08, 2015, 05:56 AM IST
Zenit charge continues as Russian league resumes

Moscow: Zenit St Petersburg maintained their lead in the Russian Premiership with a solid 3-0 win over visitors Ural Yelaterinburg on Saturday when the league resumed following the winter lay-off.

A hat-trick by Venezuelan forward Jose Salomon Rondon sealed a comfortable three points for Zenit, who are have 44 points from 18 matches, seven ahead of champions CSKA, who beat 2-1 Terek Grozny 2-1 on the road earlier on Saturday.

"It was a very, very good performance," Zenit manager Andre Villas-Boas said.

"We had to be patient because the Ural defence was tough to break down. The first goal was very important as it decided the match.

"We dominated the game completely and created a lot of chances. It was another great performance from my team."

Zenit were in command from the kick-off but blew their first clear chance 10 minutes into the match when Rondon fired slightly wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

Midfielder Oleg Shatov then squandered another opportunity as his close-range attempt was blocked by Ural goalie Nikolai Zabolotny in the 39th minute.

But the guests failed to keep a clean sheet as Rondon redirected Igor Smolnikov`s cross into the net with a header from seven yards out just before half-time.

Rondon wasted another excellent chance sending the ball wide from a neat cross by Domenico Criscito in the 58th minute. 

He eventually hammered the ball past Zabolotny with a sharp-angled shot to make it 2-0 for Zenit in the 70th minute.

In the 78th minute Rondon completed his hat-trick with a seven-metre kick from Alexander Ryazantsev`s pass to grab the lead in the goal-scorers` chart with 10 goals.

Meanwhile, reigning champions CSKA Moscow kept the pace with the leaders courtesy of a brace by their Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa in the match at Terek Grozny.

Musa put the Muscovites into the lead in first half stoppage time as he punished the hosts for a defensive blunder, sending the ball into the unguarded net past Terek `keeper Yaroslav Godzyur from just inside the area.

After the break CSKA sat back and Terek forward Igor Lebedenko made them pay for the loss of the initiative in the 61st minute when he escaped an offside trap to receive Mauricio`s pass in the box and slotted the ball past visiting goalie Igor Akinfeyev.

But in the 76th minute CSKA`s Brazilian winger Mario Fernandes found the unmarked Musa in the area and he kept his cool to score the guests` winner firing into the net through a crowded area.

"It was a good game between two evenly matched rivals," CSKA head coach Leonid Slutsky said.

"Terek looked very confident in front of their home crowd but we capitalised on their mistakes and won the game. For us it was very important to win the first match after the league restart."c