Rodrigao leads heroic defensive display as 10-man Sochi see off Spartak

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Sochi 3-0 Spartak Moscow
Monday 13 December, Fisht Centralny Stadium

Goals: Sochi - Noboa (pen) 28’, Popov 89’, Yusupov (pen) 90+7’
Sent off: Sochi - Noboa 66’; Spartak - Caufriez 90+5’
Man of the Match: Rodrigao (Sochi)

Sochi had to make do without Colombian talisman Mateo Cassierra after he was injured in the pre-match warm-up, turning once again to Christian Noboa to provide the cool head - but it didn’t last. 

The veteran Ecuadorian midfielder handed Sochi the lead halfway through the opening period, sending a penalty straight down the middle after Mikhail Ignatov had been penalised for raising his arm to block a Joaozinho free kick following a VAR review. After a relentless energetic attacking display from Spartak, however, Noboa left Sergey Ivanov with a simple decision after he raked his studs down Quincy Promes’ ankle 20 minutes into the second period.

Spartak hit back with plenty of intent though. Samuel Gigot needed just an extra few inches of airtime and he would have surely equalised, after Georgi Dzhikia flicked on an inswinging corner to the unmarked Frenchman at the back post just after the half-hour mark. 

Soon after, a vicious Zelimkhan Bakaev shot was only deflected behind by Igor Yurganov’s head from a simple but well-worked corner routine.

Victor Moses and Quinsy Promes were getting a fair bit of joy around the outside of Sochi’s back three, forcing some scrambled defending at times as even Noboa was called in to help out towards the end of the half as Moses once again got the better of Yurganov. Promes burst past Danila Prokhin in first-half added time, holding off the former Zenit defender as he burst through on goal, only denied by the fine composure of Sochi keeper Denis Adamov.

The break was as much a relief for Sochi as anything else after they’d weathered the relative storm from the visitors, but they were first to threaten in the second half as Joaozinho played a clever one-two with Noboa to release himself down the right flank. He had all the time to pick out a cross to Maksim Barsov, but the striker’s shot flew over.

From then on it was one-way traffic. Rodrigao headed away a stinging Promes drive amidst a round of corners - Spartak had 13 to Sochi’s three with 20 minutes still left on the clock - which also saw Moses let fly with a wayward attempt. 

Adamov got down low brilliantly to turn away a Georgi Dzhikia drive from distance that was flying into the bottom corner with 

The pressure was becoming almost intolerable for Sochi. A fantastic last-gasp lunge from Kirill Zaika denied Georgi Melkadze from pulling the trigger after Promes had slipped him through 12 yards out, with Gigot’s instinctive shot from the loose ball dribbling inches wide.

Time crept agonisingly on for the hosts, and still they were clinging on. Into the final 10 minutes, Roman Zobnin leapt like a salmon to bullet another cross a slither over the crossbar with Adamov at full stretch trying to cover it.

And then, just when the dam looked about set to break, Ivelin Popov was on hand to break his former club’s heart. Barsov had held possession near the corner flag attempting to run down the clock, before somehow squeezing a cutback all the way to Artur Yusupov. He slipped in Zaika who raced towards the byline before sliding it across for Popov to tap in.

Adamov made a stunning double save late on from close range efforts to somehow leave with a clean sheet intact to boot. With Spartak desperately chasing the game, Maximiliano Caufriez was caught off guard by Nikita Burmistrov’s run and brought him down while racing through in the box. 

Artur Yusupov sent the spot kick calmly into the bottom right corner for a scarcely believable 3-0 scorleine.

Sochi go third on 31 points, while Spartak stay ninth on 23 points.

Next RPl fixtures: Saturday/Sunday 26/27 February 2022 - Sochi vs Arsenal; Spartak vs CSKA

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