Claudinho double not enough to complete Zenit comeback

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Zenit St. Petersburg 2-2 Rostov
Friday 3 December, Gazprom Arena

Goals: Zenit - Claudinho 31', (pen) 69’; Rostov - Poloz (pen) 11', Komlichenko 25'
Man of the Match: Maksim Osipenko (Rostov)

Rostov raced out of the blocks to stun St. Petersburg, taking a 2-0 lead inside half an hour against the champions. 

The opener involved two players with career loyalties for both sides. Pontus Almqvist burst through latching onto a Khoren Bayramyan through ball, suddenly leaving former Rostov defender Dmitry Chistyakov scampering to catch up. He couldn't keep up with the young Swede as his lunge made Aleksey Matyunin’s decision to point to the spot an easy one. Ex-Zenit forward Dmitry Poloz stepped up to convert the penalty. 

While the opener was a shock, the second was simply breathtaking. Nikolay Komlichenko out muscled Yaroslav Rakitsky to an aerial ball, and without breaking stride turned to smash a sensational volley over Mikhail Kerzhakov from 25 yards out. 

Just a few minutes after the restart, Zenit struck with an impressive goal of their own. Rakitsky chipped a ball in towards Daler Kuzyaev, who headed it back to Claudinho on the edge of the area to rifle a first-time volley I to the far top right corner. 

Zenit should have been level about eight minutes before half time when Malcom curled a beautiful cross in to an unmarked Aleksandr Erokhin six yards out, but he turned his side foot inexplicably wide by inches. 

Midway through the second half they did draw level. After having such a key part in creating the opening goal, it was cruel fate that Almqvist was central to the equaliser, but he could have no complaints for being penalised handling the ball while sliding in the area. Claudinho sent the penalty firmly into the bottom left corner.

The last few minutes were frantic, as Sardar Azmoun’s defensive header grazed off the post and out again before Andrey Mostovoy’s snap shot was deflected just wide of the post at the other end. In the last minute added on Rakitsky rattled Sergey Pesyakov’s crossbar from a direct free kick, but Rostov held firm for a surprise share of the points.

Zenit stay top on 37 points, while Rostov remain 11th on 18 points.

Next RPL fixtures: Saturday 11 December - Rostov vs Ural; Sunday 12 December - Dynamo vs Zenit

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