Matchday 1 Review: Zabolotny’s long-awaited debut goal, Rifat & Azmoun on fire, Samoshnikov’s smashing stunner

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We have rounded up the key stats and figures from Matchday 1 of the 2021/22 Russian Premier Liga season.

One - Anton Zabolotny made a triumphant return to CSKA Moscow, scoring his first goal for the club with a typically thumping header - well over a decade since he came through the Armymen youth setup. Last season he won more duels (202) and aerial duels (138) than any other forward in the RPL, so perhaps the manner of the goal was unsurprising.

Two - Tonny Vilhena laid the platform for Krasnodar’s comprehensive 3-0 win away to Ural Ekaterinburg on Sunday with his two goals. First he broke the deadlock with a huge deflected effort after an hour, then smashing in another long-range effort five minutes from time. In one fell swoop, he scored the same total of goals as his previous 31 games.

Three - Ilya Samoshnikov stole the show with a sensational solo goal that began well inside his own half, and ended with him smashing an unstoppable rocket - with the help of a deflection, admittedly - past Aleksandr Maksimenko. The Russia international left-back’s contribution was his third goal since the start of last season; of RPL defenders, only Lokomotiv’s Murilo (4) has more.

Five - The champions were welcomed back to defend their title in uncompromising circumstances as Khimki flew out of the blocks, taking five shots on target in the first half alone - the most Zenit had conceded before half time of an RPL game since Krasnodar took eight last July.

Seven - Although Ilya Kukharchuk shocked Zenit with the opening goal, it wasn’t long before they were level through Sardar Azmoun. The Iranian superstar equalised five minutes later with his seventh goal in his last five RPL matches - the most in that time alongside teammate Artem Dzyuba.

Nine - Anton Zinkovsky was in inspired form for Krylia Sovetov Samara, even though his side lost 2-1 at home to Akhmat Grozny, as the winger completed an astonishing nine dribbles in the first half alone. No other Krylia player has ever completed that many in the first half of an RPL match since official records began in 2008.

11 - Rifat Zhemaletdinov played a critical role in dragging Lokomotiv back from the brink of an unexpected home defeat with a quick-fire double in the last 10 minutes, before setting up Fedor Smolov for the third. Zhemaletdinov’s performance moved him on to 11 direct goal involvements (five goals & six assists) in his last 11 RPL games. Before this run, he had provided none in his previous 18. He still can’t quite match teammate Grzegorz Krychowiak, who headed the assist for the first goal; the Pole has been involved in 13 goals since the start of last season, three more than any other Lokomotiv player.

18 - It seems there is no stopping Arsen Zakharyan; the teenager scored the first goal of the season on Friday night to become the third-youngest player to four RPL goals (in 14 apps) at 18yrs 58 days behind Kokorin (18yrs 44days, 13 apps) and Jano Ananidze (17yrs 284days, 17 apps).

19 - The final scoreline at Arena Khimki was appropriate given last season’s league placements, and it maintained an impressive streak for Zenit. The champions now haven’t lost an opening day RPL fixture since 2002, a remarkable run over 19 years (W14,D5).

58 - Alan Dzagoev laid a beauty of a cross on a plate for returning academy product Anton Zabolotny to power home a fine debut header for the only goals of the game against Ufa. It was the veteran creator’s 58th assist in the RPL since 2008, putting him ahead of Joaozinho (57) and behind only Artem Dzyuba (62) - having played 79 games fewer than the Zenit striker.

Photo: Konstantin Rybin/RPL


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