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Sunday 8 November 2015

The Cherkizovo Report: Lokomotiv 2 Zenit 0

Zenit fans like to sing "Оп! Давай, давай! Доминируй, унижай!" which translates to "Come on, come on! Dominate, humiliate!", but it was Lokomotiv who did the dominating and humiliating as the Railwaymen got their season of dreams back on track (stupid train joke, but I'm too happy to care!) with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over the defending champions. It was our first win over the 'homeless' since 2011 and sweet revenge for the Super Cup loss earlier this year.

A half-full stadium of 14,000 filed in on a cold, Moscow evening including an army of Zenit supporters occupying the entire bottom portion of the north stand. Loko started without Corluka, Kasaev, Pejcinovic, and Tarasov and Zenit initially didn't include Witsel, Shatov, and the injured Garay, but still had a strong lineup including Hulk, Dzyuba, and co. I also made an important change. Loko hadn't won since I starting wearing my new Europa League scarf, so today I went with my oldest scarf bought on my birthday at my first Loko match in 2003. It worked wonders! I make fun of Russians for being superstitious and claim not to be myself, but I suppose football is the one exception!

The match began in silence as supporters of both teams observed nine quiet minutes and raised lights from candles, phones, or lighters in honor of those who lost their lives in the plane crash from Egypt to St. Petersburg nine days ago. The best chances of the first half fell to the red and green and Niasse was absolutely everywhere, showing no signs of fatigue. A Miranchuk shot and a Djurica header both stayed out of the goal and a spectacular bicycle kick from Niasse failed to hit the target. Zenit's best two attempts came early and late and Ryazantsev and Danny both had shots saved by Guilherme.

In the second half, Loko got off to the brightest of starts when in the 48th minute, Niasse played a ball in to Maicon. His shot was parried away by Lodygin, but bounced right off of Lombaerts and into the goal! Ten minutes later, Niasse set up the second goal as well when he sped down the left side and centered to Samedov at the top of box whose long distance shot screwed past Lodygin to give Loko a surprising, but deserved 2-0 lead!

A little agitated at that, the Zenit fans lit their flares and smoke bombs and our fans did the same resulting in a hazy view of the pitch for a few minutes. Zenit pressed hard in our end for the last twenty minutes, but only seriously threatened when Criscito's late header hit the post and substitute Witsel's subsequent bicycle attempt flew higher over the crossbar than Niasse's. Three massive points were sealed for the Railwaymen men.

Two good results this week have hopefully proven that the 6-2 reverse with Kuban was nothing more than a fluke. It's also shown our depth as worrying injuries to key players were dealt with. Also most importantly, the team spirit was not broken and the effort today after a tiring trip to Turkey was incredible.

Not lost in the euphoria of this win is the fact that at the halfway point of the Russian Premier League season, Loko are tied for second with Rostov. Thankfully, we now have two weeks to get healthy before the final five matches of 2015.

Andy Tedrick

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