Zenit St Petersburg are back in contention for the Russian Premier League’s top spot after beating nine-man Spartak Moscow away from home.
The return of Valery Karpin, Spartak’s former head coach, who replaced Unai Emery at the helm of the Red-and-Whites earlier this week, didn’t bring much for the hosts.They failed to bounce back from last week's 5-1 thrashing by city rivals Dynamo Moscow and remain seventh, on 29 points.
It was Zenit’s Axel Witsel, who stole the show at the Luzhniki stadium on Friday evening. His first two goals were crucial to his team’s win. When the sides were level after exchanging goals by Hulk and Artem Dzyuba, the Belgian international put Zenit 2-1 up despite the run of play. He perfectly slotted a shot from distance 41 minutes in and then made it 3-1 by beating Andriy Dikan from close range.
By that time Spartak's Pareja had been sent off for upending Alexander Kerzhakov and earning a second yellow card. Zenit capitalized on the advantage once again when Roman Shirokov netted his team’s fourth goal, again from a descent distance.
Nonetheless, Spartak didn’t give up and cut the deficit when Emmanuel Emenike scored a header ten minutes from time.
But all hopes were tarnished when Juan Insaurralde was shown a straight red card for a two-footed challenge on Vladimir Bystrov just a few minutes after coming on the pitch as a late substitute.
"We had the chances to equalize throughout the game," said Spartak's acting coach Valery Karpin in televised interview. "Our intentions were good, we wanted to put on a decent show. But our mistakes with the first and third goals… took their toll."
The victory sees Luciano Spalletti's side go joint second with Anzhi on 37 points, three behind CSKA Moscow, who travel to Makhachkala on Sunday.