Hulk fires Zenit to 2-0 win over Russian title rival CSKA
MOSCOW (AP) — Hulk scored twice to give Zenit St. Petersburg a 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow in a match billed as a potential Russian Premier League title decider.
The win leaves Zenit eight points clear at the top with nine games remaining and on target to win the title for the first time since 2012, barring a comeback of the sort that saw CSKA recover from nine points down to become champion last season.
Brazilian striker Hulk blasted hosts Zenit ahead with a 25-yard shot off the post in the 63rd minute and extended his team’s lead 11 minutes later, reacting quickly to score on a rebound.
Eighteen-year-old Swede Carlos Strandberg displayed fine ball control to score in the 82nd against the run of play and ensure a tense finish, but CSKA could not find an equalizer.
Zenit dominated the game throughout, frequently testing CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who made several strong saves just nine days after he was hospitalized when a flare was thrown at his head in a game for Russia against Montenegro. Akinfeev was treated for burns and concussion after that incident, which is being investigated by UEFA.
Defeat ends a run of six league wins for CSKA, which is now under heavy pressure from third-placed FC Krasnodar, which is keen to snatch the second of the league’s two Champions League spots.
Krasnodar sits two points behind CSKA after hammering Mordovia Saransk in a 4-0 win Saturday, with midfielder Pavel Mamaev scoring twice. Earlier, fourth-placed Rubin Kazan had seen off Amkar Perm 3-0 to briefly take third.
A tense Moscow derby saw fifth-placed Dynamo held to a 2-2 draw by Lokomotiv despite the Railwaymen being reduced to 10 men by a 48th-minute red card for Alexander Sheshukov.
In other results, Spartak Moscow drew 1-1 with Kuban Krasnodar on Saturday.