One more step towards the start of a new football season: The Russian Premier League is under way.
Zenit St. Petersburg defeated Lokomotiv Moscow on penalties in the Russian Super Cup, Russia’s version of the Community Shield that pits last season’s league winner against the Russian Cup winner.
Italian defender Domenico Criscito bagged the final penalty kick to win the trophy for last year’s table-toppers Zenit after the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Baye Oumar Niasse gave Lokomotov the surprise lead in the 23rd minute, and they held on for dear life through the second half until Zenit equalized through full-back Igor Smolnikov on a set-piece in the 83rd minute.
Zenit’s leveler came off a Hulk free-kick that glanced off the head of Axel Witsel, falling into the path of Smolnikov at the far post. This match was Hulk’s return to competitive action after missing Brazil’s Copa America campaign with a leg muscle injury.
Zenit won the league by seven points over CSKA Moscow last season, while Lokomotiv finished seventh in the table. Lokomotov won the league cup after Zenit was stunned in the Round of 16 by Arsenal Tula. That left the competition wide open, and Lokomotov took home the crown with a 3-1 extra-time win over Kuban Krasnodar in the finals.
The new Russian Premier League campaign begins next Friday, July 17 as Spartak Moscow takes on FC Ufa. Zenit’s first match is Sunday, July 19 against Dynamo Moscow, while Lokomotov also begins Sunday, on the road at FC Mordovia.