Despite four away wins, Lokomotiv had only managed two points at home leading the media and fans alike to pose the question, 'Why can't Loko win at home?' Today's impressive 2-1 win against a dangerous Krasnodar side hopefully will silence the critics. Recovering from an 0-1 deficit, Loko turned the tables with a poke from Niasse and a nose job from Kasaev.
A nice crowd of 10,000 attended on this cool, end-of-summer day including a small contingent of Krasnodar fans tucked into the normal away fan corner in the north end. Loko named an unchanged lineup from the 3-0 win at Ufa. I didn't quite know what to expect from Krasnodar today as their season has been a mixed bag from drawing Kuban and Mordovia at home to defeating Zenit at Petrovsky. I could only presume that Loko would be fresher due to Krasnodar's Thursday trip to Helsinki to battle HJK in the Europa League and that with two teams that don't mind attacking, it would be an open, back-and-forth game. The competitors didn't disappoint.
The Railwaymen certainly had more of a spring in their step in the opening stages with the best chance coming after N'Dinga weaved his way through the Krasnodar defense and found Niasse who shot wide right. But then in the 11th minute against the run of play, Smolov flew down the left, side-stepped Tarasov, and fired past Guilherme to give the visitors an undeserved lead.
Niasse immediately tried to reply with another effort which sailed wide right, but then succeeded in equalizing seven minutes later with the most bizarre of goals. A long kick from Corluka headed forward by N'Dinga was played-in to Niasse who tried to elude two Krasnodar defenders, tumbled down, rolled over, and from the seat of his pants, swiped the ball which squirted past Dikan and rolled slowly into the the goal.
After that, it seemed to be full steam ahead for the red and white, but the Bulls finally found their footing towards the end of the first half with Granqvist heading over the crossbar and Smolov attempting a second goal from the same spot as the first one, but he luckily didn't fool Guilherme again. Things started to get chippy after that, with four yellow cards shown within nine minutes, two for each team, temporarily breaking the flow of the game.
Halftime was a chance for everyone to catch their breath and N'dinga, who had been one of Loko's best players, was substituted for Mykhalyk due to a hamstring spasm.
Once the second half came, it was time for some Kasaev magic as he was wreaking havoc with his nifty work down the left side. The moment of the match came when Loko forced the ball into the penalty box. Gazinsky poked it into the air and Tarasov tried to slam it home with a spectacular bicycle kick that hit the post. Loko continued piling the pressure on and Samedov centered it to Niasse who forced a good save from Dikan, but right into the path of Kasaev who headed the ball in as he was getting kicked in the nose! He went down and it was later revealed that he broke his nose, but he continued in the game.
After taking the lead, Loko had some chances to strike again and close out the game. Samedov had a goal disallowed because of a Niasse foul and his replacement, Maicon, also had a chance to seal it but forced a save from Dikan after being played clear by an errant back pass from the Krasnodar midfield. The best chances at equalizing for the Bulls came on shots from Smolov and Mamaev that sailed over the crossbar and Loko had a few more breakaway chances that were undone by careless passing. But solid defending allowed the Railwaymen to comfortably see out the last few minutes of the match and to pick up their first home win of the season.
The win moved Lokomotiv up to second place with five wins, two draws, and 17 points. It's starting to become clear that our strong start to the season is no fluke. Lokomotiv seemed to be in control of the match from beginning to end and fully deserved the three points today. And with an international break next weekend, we have two weeks to savor this victory!