Zenit Goes Empty-Handed
Published: May 29, 2013 (Issue # 1761)
FC Zenit St. Petersburg’s season ended on a muted note Sunday, in a goalless away draw against FC Amkar Perm, concluding a turbulent year rife with off-the-field controversies for the team.
The season ended with Zenit relinquishing its two-year hold on the Russian Premier League title to finish in second place behind Moscow rival CSKA, which finished two points ahead of the St. Petersburg team.
“If you win the championship two times in a row with a large lead, it is possible that in the third year you will place second. I don’t think that there is anything catastrophic about it,” said Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti.
While Zenit is guaranteed participation in next year’s UEFA Champions League by placing second, the club continues to rue its 0-3 off-the-pitch defeat by FC Dynamo Moscow last November. The match result was set by a decision of the Russian Football Association, after a firecracker thrown from the stands disrupted the game from finishing on the field in Moscow.
“I think that each one of you will see a firecracker at the bottom of the championship cup,” said Spalletti after CSKA’s championship was confirmed.
Zenit’s appeal against the RFA decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, was rejected on May 14. The situation prompted members of club management to initiate a public discussion for the creation of an alternate league which would unite Russian and Ukrainian clubs into a single tournament, leading to a number of high-profile meetings discussing the idea.
Zenit was also knocked out of the semi-finals of the Russian Cup by FC Anzhi Makhachkala, as well as the Europa League by FC Basel, despite an illustrious win over English club FC Liverpool in round 32. This has resulted in the first trophy-less season of Spalletti’s tenure.
Despite the difficulties, Spalletti reiterated his commitment to continuing at the club the following season.
“I am not ready to leave Petersburg just like that, because as I have said many times before, I am tied to this club, this city, and I don’t think it would be the solution” he said.
Sunday’s game showcased a number of Zenit’s younger players that could feature when the season returns. Debuts included Alexey Gasilin, 17, Danila Yashuk, 18, Vyacheslav Zinkov, 20, and Pavel Mogilivez, 20. Also starting was 19-year-old goalkeeper Egor Baburin, who beat club records by keeping a clean sheet in his first 304 minutes of game play for the club.
The new season will begin on July 13.