Russian league leaders slip up in North Caucasus

Defending Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg twice let the lead slip against Spartak Nalchik on Sunday, but the draw was enough to take them top as Rubin Kazan lost 1-0 to Anzhi Makhachkala.

In Nalchik in the day’s early kickoff, it all seemed too easy for Zenit when, in the seventh minute, they sliced through Spartak for Alexander Kerzhakov to score, driving home Danny’s low cross at the far post.

But the visitors couldn’t add to their lead and with an hour gone the hosts evened things up, Bosnian midfielder Adnan Zahirovic stabbing the ball home from six meters after Zenit failed to clear a corner.

The title holders went ahead again in the 81st minute when right back Alexander Anyukov pulled the ball back to the unmarked Danko Lazovic on the penalty spot for the Serb to score his third league goal of the season.

It looked like the three points would be heading north, but in the 89th minute Roman Kontsedalov curled in a free kick from almost 30 meters with Zenit keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev rooted to his line.

The point was enough to take the Petersburgers top, however, as Rubin Kazan – runners-up last season and top of the table after two 2-0 wins this term – failed to take advantage of Zenit’s stumble.

In Dagestan, the only goal was scored in the seventh minute by Anzhi Makhachkala striker Jan Holenda. The Czech forward ran onto a long pass from Odil Ahmedov and lashed the ball past keeper Sergei Ryzhikov with several of the Rubin defense apparently still in the dressing room.

The win shoots Anzhi up to eighth, in the middle of a host of teams including Spartak Nalchik with four points. Rubin remain on six points, one point and one place behind leaders Zenit.

Next weekend, Zenit are at home to CSKA Moscow, while Nalchik travel to Kazan to face Rubin. Anzhi, meanwhile, play at Tom Tomsk, who have lost both their games so far and play against Terek – also pointless after two matches – in Grozny on Monday.

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