Spartak Moscow claimed a critical three points in the Moscow derby versus CSKA with a 2-1 win to move 10 points clear of their fierce rivals at the top of the Russian Premier League (RPL).
Before Sunday afternoon’s game at CSKA’s VEB Arena, Spartak fans unfurled a banner reading “We’ve come for gold” - a reference to their quest for their first league title since 2001.
They left needing just one more victory to secure what has evaded them for 16 years.
Defending league champions CSKA lost playmaker Alan Dzagoev in the warm-up before the game, which was delayed by 15 minutes due to a television broadcasting overlap with the Sochi Grand Prix.
When the game did start, CSKA began the brighter. A long range shot from defender Aleksei Berezutski forced Spartak goalkeeper Artem Rebrov to fumble the ball, and the follow up hit the post before Aleksandr Golovin shot straight at Rebrov.
That set a precedent for much of the first half as CSKA pushed for an opener. Occasionally Spartak did manage to break away, the ever-dangerous Ivelin Popov crossed to Roman Zobnin on 19 minutes who cleverly controlled the ball but the Russian’s shot was weak.
Then, with just over half an hour played, the game saw its first goal, coming undeniably against the run of play.
In the midst of heavy CSKA pressure, Spartak broke away through Popov, who drove into the CSKA box and squared to Luiz Adriano. The Brazilian calmly slotted the ball through the legs of Akinfeev before wheeling away to celebrate in front of the joyous section of away fans.
First blood to Spartak.
If CSKA were disheartened by the goal then they did not make it apparent. Their relentless pressure eventually paid off when just before half time, a header from Berezutskiy ensured the scores were level going into the break.
But CSKA’s brave resolve was to be in vain. Just nine minutes after the restart, they became masters of their own downfall. Defender Viktor Vasin was tackled attempting to dribble clear Ze Luis’ blocked attempt. Captain Denis Glushakov was on hand to fire the ball into the back of the net.
After the goal, CSKA’s resistance appeared to wane and Spartak could sense a dip in morale. Akinfeev kept CSKA in the game by touching a shot from Zobnin onto the post, and then saving the rebound off the goal line.
Twice during the second half the game was paused for several minutes due to flares lit in the CSKA end behind the goal that created a cloud of opaque smoke on the pitch. The disruptions to the match were to have no bearing on the outcome.
Spartak could have put the game to bed through Promes five minutes from time, but the Dutchman’s shot hit the post. The game stayed at 2-1 and Spartak extended their lead at the top of the league to a seemingly unassailable 10 points.
Just one more win will see them crowned champions.
Upon the final whistle, Spartak players and staff flooded the pitch and danced in front of the travelling away fans. They knew that now only something special could stop them from the coveted RPL championship.
Spartak manager Massimo Carrera praised his players following the win. The Italian, who worked as assistant to current Chelsea coach Antonio Conte at Juventus and then the Italian national team, was appointed Spartak boss after the resignation Dmitry Alenichev in August.
“I’m grateful that I am with players who are suited to my ideas. They try in earnest to fulfil what I demand of them. It’s a sign of why we have been the leaders of the Russian Premier League since last year. ” Carrera said in his post-match press conference.
“I only try to encourage the team to give one hundred percent and we have become a team. As regards the level Russian football - I think it is improving,” he added.
Spartak came for gold, they left with the opportunity to carve their names into Russian football history.