Zenit hold onto top spot after hard-fought draw

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Dynamo Moscow 1-1 Zenit St. Petersburg
Sunday 12 December, VTB Arena

Goals: Dynamo - Skopintsev 72'; Zenit - Claudinho 34'
Man of the Match: Dmitry Skopintsev (Dynamo) 

Claudinho drew first blood in the title-defining clash at the VTB Arena just after half an hour - but not before missing a penalty. 

Malcom's surging run found Vyacheslav Karavaev on the overlap to cut back a sharp low cross along the six yard box, where Claudinho was on hand to turn it in under pressure. 

Only a few minutes earlier though he'd cost his side a clear chance to take the lead from the spot. Andrey Mostovoy was clipped in the box by Dmitry Skopintsev leaving Sergey Karasev a straight forward decision after a VAR review, but the Brazilian playmaker skewed a poor penalty attempt comfortably wide. 

With Zenit missing their two top goalscorers in Artem Dzyuba and Sardar Azmoun and Dynamo without talisman Sebastian Szymanski, it became a war not quite of attrition but efficient final-third possession. Dynamo had slightly more control after the break, but still not enough clear-cut chances - Arsen Zakharyan glancing a Guillermo Varela cross harmlessly wide after the hour mark probably the closest they came up until that point. 

Varela was offering valuable incursions from the right flank, one providing the critical intervention just inside the last 20 minutes. Denis Makarov shaped to whip in an inswinging cross from the right but instead played a cleverly disguised ball to Varela's overlapping run in space. The Uruguayan picked out his fellow full-back Skopintsev haring in on the far side to slam a well-controlled volley under Mikhail Kerzhakov's legs. 

It was just reward for a bolder approach that had yielded six attempts on goal to Zenit's one since half time - compared to just one for the hosts before - and set up a tense final quarter of an hour. 

Dynamo remain second on 36 points, while Zenit stay top on 38 points.

Next RPL fixtures: Saturday/Sunday 26/27 February 2022 - Khimki vs Dynamo; Zenit vs Rubin

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