Nicholson double batters past Arsenal

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Spartak Moscow 3-0 Arsenal Tula
Sunday 10 April, Otkritie Bank Arena

Goals: Spartak - Zobnin 53’, Nicholson 57’, 75’
Man of the Match: Shamar Nicholson (Spartak)
Sent off: Arsenal - K. Kangwa 87’

Against the RPL’s leakiest defence - Arsenal had conceded averaged exactly two goals per game before kickoff - Paolo Vanoli picked a more direct lineup starting Aleksandr Sobolev alongside Shamar Nicholson for the first time since the Jamaican’s winter arrival. The decision paid dividends, but not before a frustrating first half.

Nicholson squandered the clearest chance of the opening exchanges when slipped in by Mikhail Ignatov’s perfectly weighted through-ball, but found the well-placed frame of Mikhail Levashov in his way to block his shot. Uros Radakovic then powered an unstoppable header past Aleksandr Maksimenko from Kings Kangwa’s delivery amidst some seemingly absent defensive marking - only for a VAR review to rule it out for a push from the Serbian on Samuel Gigot moments before the ball arrived.

Daniil Khlusevich was twice denied by brilliant Levashov saves to keep the scores level as Arsenal weathered the storm, but in truth it was one-way traffic. Within a quarter of an hour of the restart though, Spartak were deservedly 2-0 up. Roman Zobnin finished off a simple chance teed up by Mikhail Igantov from close range. Five minutes later, Sobolev threaded a diagonal ball through the defence to Nicholson, who arrowed an inch-perfect finish across Levashov and in off the far post.

With 20 minutes to go the Sobolev-Nicholson partnership again showed how dangerous it could be. The latter ran the channel to collect an aerial ball, before anticipating the run of the former, who held off a couple of challenges before sliding a perfect ball right across the six-yard bow to Khlusevich, who somehow managed to squirm his shot wide.

Nicholson bagged his second three minutes later anyway, slamming a ball that sat up comfortably after Sobolev had occupied his marker into the bottom corner to put the result well beyond doubt.

In the closing minutes, Kangwa was sent off for ignoring referee Vladislav Besborodov’s instruction to wait for his whistle to take a free kick. With Nikita Chernov and Danil Prutsev both getting league debuts under their belt, it was about the perfect evening’s work for Paolo Vanoli and his side.

Spartak go ninth on 30 points, while Arsenal stay bottom on 21 points.

Next RPL fixtures: Saturday 16 April - Spartak vs Rubin; Sunday 17 April - Arsenal vs Rostov

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