Sergei Semak’s men were forced to come from behind at the Gazprom Arena and overcome a resilient Krylia Sovetov to secure the points on Friday night.
Early pressure and numerous corners saw Zenit dominate the play in and around Frolov’s goal in nearly the entire first half, but defending in numbers and perhaps a lack of luck for the Zenit forwards meant the away side were looking good for a nil-nil at half-time, with only the occasional foray upfield for the home defence to worry about. However on 43 minutes a quick break down the Zenit right and a well-placed cross from Zinkovsky found Maxim Glushenkov free, deep in the box, the Spartak-loanee took it calmly and headed home past Lunev to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Zenit came out all guns blazing in the second half, with Dzyuba and Azmoun combining to set up Malcom who fired past Frolov to draw Zenit level, or so it seemed. After a long delay VAR ruled the Brazilians strike out for an offside in the build up, meaning we were back to 0-1.
Sustained Zenit pressure and efforts from Azmoun, Dzyuba, Karavaev and Malcom all failed to find the back of the Krylia net, it seemed unbelievable that those first frantic 15 minutes of the second half didn’t yield some return for the blue-white-sky blues. It wasn’t until 62 minutes and a handball in the box from Timofeev did we see Zenit draw level. Artem Dzyuba putting the spot kick away, impressively rolling it down the middle, which was even more impressive as the big man did it after a two-minute delay as VAR was checked.
There was a second penalty on 68 minutes for Semak’s side given, this time for Terekhov wrestling Sutormin to the ground. Once again the big man once stepped up, with the result being the same. Zenit now took a 2-1 lead into the last 20 minutes of the match.
An Azmoun volley that flew past Frolov into his net was also ruled out for offside, with Artem Dzyuba the guilty party this time around. VAR reared its head once again, but this time to rule out an equalizer for Krylia, Radonjic’s thunderous strike being dismissed for a handball in the buildup on 77.
Zenit closed out the final stages without incident and once the ref blew for full time, the blue-white sky blue players headed to thank the 6000+ crowd at the Gazprom Arena for their tremendous support in what was an entertaining game.