Thursday, May 15, 2008

Deserving Champions

Zenit St. Petersburg were highly impressive yet again as they dispatched Glasgow Rangers in the UEFA Cup final last night at the City of Manchester Stadium. The first half was as expected, a tame and uninteresting affair with a typically dogged Rangers’ performance keeping Zenit at bay. There was only one team that was interested in scoring and thankfully for football’s sake they emerged successful at the end of the tie. Just as he had done in previous games in Europe, Walter Smith had set up his Rangers side to defend deep and to make use of chances from set pieces if and when they do arrive to try scoring. Zenit on the other hand tried maintaining a high tempo throughout the game and passed the ball in the quick and precise manner that we are now accustomed to seeing from them. The first half ended goalless as Zenit were mostly content with shots from distance. Rangers were anchored superbly in the first period by Brahim Hemadani and Kevin Thomson who cut out all attacks made by the exciting Zenit playmakers Andrei Arshavin and Konstantin Zurianov. The second half though was to be an entirely different story.

Rangers were forced to come out of their shell in the second period thereby leaving space in the midfield for Zenit to utilize. The half began with Juan Claude Darcheville, Rangers’ lone striker finding space in the Zenit box only for his shot to be saved by Malafeev in the Zenit goal. The rebound though fell kindly for the Gers’ skipper Barry Ferguson whose shot ricocheted on to the hand of a Zenit defender, but the referee deemed it to be unintentional. The first big chance of the game fell to Arshavin who rounded the onrushing Neil Alexander only to have his chipped shot cleared off the line by left back Sasa Papac. The breakthrough though came in the 72nd minute courtesy a wonderful one-two between Arshavin and Denisov, with the latter coolly slotting the ball into the back of the net. Even after Zenit’s opener Rangers efforts to claw themselves back into the game went astray as they were unable to change their tactics to suit the requirements of the hour. Darcheville and Nacho Novo both wasted good chances late on to force the game into extra time. It was Zurianov though who settled the tie in stoppage time by tapping in from close range. At the end of the day I felt that Dick Advocaat’s Zenit although devoid of household names were rewarded for their attacking mindset. Rangers hardly looked like creating meaningful chances and it would have been a real pity had they walked away with the trophy.


The Reluctant Rebel said...

The first goal was elegant. A cool assist and finish. Reminded me of how we used to do it in the good old days. :)

Suhrith said...

Haha. The one-two was very much cavaliers like. These fellas play some really nice football. In the 2nd leg of the semifinal against Bayern they were on fire.

Sroyon said...

Good for them! A victory for attacking football. Wish I hadn't missed it.