Azmoun hat-trick helps sensational Zenit find their mojo to thrash Ural

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Zenit St. Petersburg 7-1 Ural Ekaterinburg 

Saturday 14 March, Gazprom Arena

Goals: Azmoun (8', 15', 61’), Dzyuba (12', 72’ pen), Malcom (27’), Driussi (69’); Panyukov (65’ pen)

Man of the Match: Sardar Azmoun

Sardar Azmoun was unstoppable as his hattrick led Zenit St. Petersburg to an emphatic 7-1 destruction of FC Ural Ekaterinburg. His hattrick was backed up by a double from his strike partner Artem Dzyuba, Malcom’s first goal for the club and Sebastian Driussi. Andrey Panyukov struck a consolation from the penalty spot.

Zenit's deadly duo of Azmoun and Dzyuba were restored to the starting lineup together for the first time in the spring, and both struck inside the opening 12 minutes. FC Ural - with half an eye on their postponed Olimp Russian Cup quarterfinal next Wednesday - selected two RPL debutants in defence in Artem Mamin and Igor Kalinin.

After failing to score either of their first two Russian Premier Liga matches after the winter break, all it took was eight minutes for Zenit to break the deadlock. Dzyuba and Yuriy Zhirkov combined to feed the latter into the box, where his path was blocked. Azmoun intercepted Magomed Ozdoev's shot from the rebound, and steered it home himself. 

Yaroslav Rakitskiy cut back to Dzyuba from the byline four minutes later. After controlling with his first touch, he turned and struck a firm finish with his second to go clear as the Russian Premier Liga's top goalscorer. 

FC Ural debutant Igor Kalinin was struggling to cope with Malcom's pace but managed to edge the ball off the Brazilian's toes after 25 minutes. The ball was still live though, and from Vyacheslav Karavaev's cross Yaroslav Godzyur failed to hold Dzyuba's header. Azmoun gratefully snaffled up the loose ball before rounding the keeper to finish from a tight angle. 

After seven months and one serious injury, Malcom was finally rewarded with his first goal in the Russian Premier Liga. Douglas Santos poked the ball through for Zenit’s record signing to sweep a smart finish across Godzyur after 27 minutes.

After the initial furious pace the intensity inevitably dropped a notch or two. When a rare chance fell FC Ural’s way after half an hour, Andrey Egorychev fluffed his lines when unmarked 12 yards out. There was still time for Malcom to slide a rapid counter attack just wide from Azmoun’s pass two minutes before the break.

The first clear chance of the second actually fell to the visitors when Denis Kulakov’s cross found Efremov’s head. Lunev had to be alert but made the save.

On the hour Sebastian Driussi’s firm, direct pass found Malcom in the area. After skipping around desperate challenges he ran out of space but managed to slide it to Azmoun to find an unguarded part of the net for his hattrick.

Five minutes later and FC Ural were handed a consolation when Artem Yusupov, on as a substitute 10 minutes earlier, was adjudged to have been dragged down by Branislav Ivanovic. Former Zenit striker Panyukov stepped up to cheekily chip his penalty down the middle.

Having already bagged three of his own, Azmoun showed his selfless side by chasing a long ball slightly away from goal on the right. Looking up he spotted the run of Driussi tearing into acres of space, and the Argentine smashed an emphatic finish over Godzyur.

With just under 20 minutes still to go, Yusupov’s arm made contact in the area and Dzyuba stepped up to dispatch the resulting penalty. 

In the last 10 minutes Andrey Lunev had to be alert when a rare sight at goal feel FC Ural’s way. Andrey Egorychev was being watched closely by Karavaev, and although the defender blocked the first shot, Lunev’s fingertips denied the second.

Yusupov came close to adding a second for FC Ural at the near post, but the humiliation had long been complete.

Zenit St. Petersburg: Lunev, Karavaev, Ivanovic, Rakitskiy (Kuzyaev 80’), Zhirkov (Musaev 46’), Ozdoev (Shamkin 73’), Barrios, Driussi, Malcom, Dzyuba, Azmoun 

Ural Ekaterinburg: Godzyur, Kulakov, Mamin, Wilusz (Polyakov 46’), Kalinin, Augustyniak, Egorychev, Dimitrov (Shabolin 67’), Bicfalvi, Efremov (Yusupov 55’), Panyukov 

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