Man of the Match: Even though his goals were more luck than marksmanship, former Manchester United protégé Zoran Tosic was the difference today for CSKA. At least, he was the difference on the scoresheet. In the lineup in large part because of his service, Tosic scored both CSKA’s goals from dead balls. The first was an attempted cross Spartak let fall in the box, confusion on the part of the goalkeeper leading to an unfortunately conceded goal. The second was a great strike from the deep right flank, that needed help from the opposition. Spartak’s Ari lifted his left forearm to his face after Tosic struck his shot. The ball deflected off his arm and in for the winner.
Packaged for takeaway:
- While Zenit St. Petersburg has long secured first in Russia, there is a knockdown, drag out for second place (otherwise known as Russia’s place in the preliminary rounds of UEFA’s Champions League). With the win (and Dinamo Moscow’s loss at Zenit), CSKA jumped from fourth to second, one point ahead of their pair of Moscow rivals.
- While there no shortage of clubs in Moscow, CSKA-Spartak is the big derby. Both share Luzhniki Stadium, site of today’s game. The crowd was in full-force pre-match, half the stadium waving blue and red flags (for CSKA), the other flaunting their red and whites.
- CSKA started the game stronger, making headway into Spartak’s attack through the athleticism of right winb Ahmed Musa, but by halftime, Spartak was generating the better chances, especially winning crosses drilled to the edge of Igor Akinfeev’s six yard box.
- Akinfeev, just back from a layoff after reconstructive knee surgery (for an injury suffered against Spartak), looked confident laying out for a number of first half saves. While only two of the (six, or so) saves were particularly difficult, Akinfeev seemed to have glue on his gloves, getting his body in front of and catching an array of headed shots.
- There is little Akinfeev could have done on the conceded goal, with Spartak forward Artem Dyzuba leaving Aleksei Berezutski in quicksand before launching an equalizer into the upper 90 from 14 yards out. It almost looked like a high school play: A small shimmy from the dangly attacker before going left to the side of the area and letting go of a rocket.
- Dyzuba was a part of one the matches strange, quirky symmetries. At 6’4″, he was often playing the number 10 to Emmanuel Emenike’s number nine. Emenike’s only 5’11”. At the other end, CSKA often did their own inverse big-little partnership when 6’3″ Tomas Necid played behind Seydou Doumbia (5’10”).
- You can spend years watching Russian soccer and it never gets old: There were two sets of twins on the field today. The Berezutski twins (Aleksei and Vasili), Russian internationals, were the central defense pairing for CSKA. The Kombarovs twins (Dmitri and Kirill) took up the fullback positions for Spartak, though they are natural midfielders.
- The acquisition of Swedish ball-winner Pontus Wernbloom is a perfect fit for CSKA. At least, if allows them to play a very aggressive team, as they did today. Musa was basically an attack-only winger, and with Tosic having little value when he’s in from the left, having Keisuke Honda as part of a two-man midfield could be an invitation to be dominated. Wernbloom, however, was very good today and allowed Honda to roam, even as CSKA was matched against a 4-2-3-1.
- If you’re somebody who likes seeing the middle-tier countries of Europe do well, you can’t help but hope CSKA holds on to second. They have far too much talent to be fluttering around Europe. With strong international quality at nearly every position, this team should be in Champions League.