Nine-man Spartak limber up for Celtic with defeat

Spartak Moscow.jpg.crop_display.jpg

Spartak Moscow, who travel to Glasgow next week to take on Celtic in the Champions League, had two players sent off in their 4-2 defeat to reigning Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg on Friday.

Brazilian forward Hulk and Russian international midfielder Roman Shirokov scored one a piece, while Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel netted a double for Zenit.

Artem Dzyuba and Nigerian forward Emmanuel Emenike both scored for Spartak.

The win lifted Zenit up to 37 points, level with second-placed Anzhi Makhachkala who take on Moscow's CSKA, three points clear at the top, on Sunday.

"My team showed high-class football for the second consecutive match," Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti said.

"We came here to play a very tough match and my players showed strong character which I wanted to see so much.

"For me it was clear that my men were ready to give all they have to earn three points today. And we earned all three points and did it deservedly."

Zenit, who desperately needed to win after losing points in their two previous Premiership matches and chances to advance into the Champions League's knockout stage, started in lively fashion and began testing Spartak's defence from the kick off.

Hulk put Zenit 1-0 up in the 21st minute beating Spartak goalkeeper Andrei Dykan with a mid-range shot with the help of a slight ricochet off the hosts' Argentinian star Nicolas Pareja.

Spartak levelled six minutes later through Dzyuba, who sent the ball into the net with a close-range header from Dmitry Kombarov's cross.

Spartak continued to press Zenit's defence with the visitors' keeper Vyachslav Malafeyev the most overworked player on the synthetic pitch of Moscow's Luzhniki stadium.

But it was Witsel who scored with a precise low shot to put Zenit into the lead again with four minutes remaining before the break.

Pareja reduced Spartak's chances of saving the day when he was sent off for a second yellow card in the 69th minute.

Witsel then got his second goal of the match in the 71st minute, before Shirokov made it 4-1 for the defending champions.

Emenike sweetened the bitter pill for the hosts when he rounded off the scoring with nine minutes to go.

Spartak's Argentinian defender Juan Insaurralde was then sent off in injury time.

In Friday's other match Kuban Krasnodar were beaten 2-1 by FC Krasnodar in the Southern Russian city's derby clash.

Kuban clinched the lead 10 minutes after the interval through Armenian midfielder Araz Ozbilis, who sent the ball into the net from close range after a defensive blunder.

Krasnodar went in search of the equaliser and their full back Yevgeny Shipitsyn pulled his team level with a well-struck free kick with five minutes to go.

But Belarussian defender Alexander Martynovic netted Krasnodar's winning goal in the fourth minute of injury time from Brazilian teammate midfielder Joaozinho's well-executed free kick.

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