A cool, crisp September evening brought 8700 spectators. The upper sectors of the south grandstand, where I sit, were more full than usual which I took as a positive consequence of Loko's early season play. Kasaev, Kolomeytsev, and Skuletic replaced midweek starters Maicon, N'Dinga, and Niasse. Fernandes looks to have found his way back in the team and made his second start in a row. Former Loko player Taras Burlak was in the Samaran starting eleven.
Coming into this match, I was still ridiculously overjoyed by Loko's 3-1 success versus Sporting in Lisbon on Thursday, but I wondered if tired legs could result in a shock home defeat. In the first twenty minutes, it didn't look that way. Completely opposed to what happened in Portugal, Loko controlled possession and dictated play, though only created a few chances from it with the pick of the bunch being Kasaev forcing a decent save out of Konyukhov from a long range shot.
The Wings of the Soviets (I love that name!) found their feet midway through the first period and at that point, I thought Loko may be feeling the fatigue from their long, midweek European journey. A free kick for the Samarans found Dragun in a good position, but he slammed it high and wide. Loko responded with a Tarasov header on the other end of the field that almost squeezed in via a deflection before it was cleared to safety. But towards the end of the half, Kryliya Sovetov had a couple of other attempts go wide off a corner and a free kick and went to the locker room looking slightly the better of the two sides.
Luckily, Loko made the necessary halftime adjustments and took control in the second part of the game. Skuletic started it off by almost heading one home but then in the 54th minute, the breakthrough finally came. Fernandes played a free kick to Shishkin who floated a ball into Kolomeytsev. His shot/pass found Corluka streaking in from the right side for an easy, sliding toe poke in.
The Railroaders made a double change in the 62nd minute bringing in N'dinga and Miranchuk for Fernanades and Kolomeytsev, then brought on Niasse for Skuletic. At this point, the team really took flight even if the opponents had 'wings'. Denisov, Kasaev, Miranchuk, and Niasse played neat combinations down the left side and found a game-sealing second goal in the 87th minute when Kasaev sped down the wing and fed a pass to Niasse who played a sweet, little give-and-go with Miranchuk allowing the Senegalese man to bundle in yet another goal for the red and green. In injury time, Loko continued to run circles around the Samarans, but couldn't quite add a third.
These are certainly good times for Lokomotiv. Enjoy them! Go to the matches! This is a team that simply finds ways to win no matter what right now. The hard work of Denisov, Kasaev's speed bursts, Niasse's unorthodox goal-scoring prowess, the rock solid defense of Corluka and Pejcinovic, Guilherme's stellar play in goal, and pretty much everyone else has made this team spectacular in the first quarter of this season. Chevchenko has dramatically lifted team spirit and has made the team play for each other and for the fans who are starting to trickle back. It's an ego-free squad now that deeply cares for the logo on the front of the shirt rather than the name on the back.