The Great Wall of Spartak

5 September 2012, 23:35

 Spartak’s goalie frustrates CSKA’s exalted offense

It was set to be the Alexander Radulov show, but CSKA’s star forward met his nemesis in the form of Spartak goaltender Sergei Borisov. The 26-year-old Borisov, signed from Yermak (Angarsk) in 2011, had a new season starting game to remember making 35 saves to post a shut-out as the Red-and-Whites claimed early season bragging rights with a 1-0 win over the noisy neighbors.

The only goal came on 22:59, and it was a solo effort from Stanislav Zhmakin. He ghosted round the back, and after rapping his first shot into Rastislav Stana’s pads he lifted the rebound over the goalie’s outstretched leg. At the other end, Spartak’s valiant defense limited CSKA to just three shots on target in the second period, an astonishing effort given the offensive power arrayed against them.

The pre-match expectation had been that CSKA’s expensively assembled new roster – characterized by Radulov – would launch its bid to return to the top of Russian game with a comfortable win over its local rival. But Spartak fans also had cause for optimism after the return of popular forwards Branko Radivojevic and Eduard Lewandowski, and the team was in no mood to play along with CSKA’s script. True, the hosts dominated possession for long periods and played some slick passing hockey in the final third. But Spartak answered with resolute defense and a monumental display between the pipes from Borisov, exemplified by his first period save to deny Niklas Persson in a one-on-one as the forward emerged from the sin-bin at the perfect moment to get behind Spartak’s back line.

Even in the final stages, as CSKA pushed forward in greater desperation looking to find a way back into the game, the visitors held firm and by the final minutes it seemed that Valery Bragin’s men had run out of ideas. On the front cover of the matchday program, Radulov declared: “It’s time for CSKA to return to the summit.” But the early evidence served as a reminder that hitting the heights is rarely achieved overnight.

Amur’s flying start

Amur Khabarovsk wasted little time in getting on the mark this season – Dmitry Tarasov opened the scoring at the Platinum Arena after just 21 seconds. Although Atlant Moscow Region equalized thanks to Nikolai Lemtyugov’s first goal for the club, the Far East team skated to a 3-1 win thanks to Evgeny Korotkov (33:30) and Oleg Piganovich in the last minute. Atlant have a chance for quick revenge when the teams meet again on Thursday.

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