February 15, 2020
Five-Star Real Madrid Edge Out Zenit in an Al Kass Classic
Former champions Real Madrid and Al Kass debutants FC Zenit produced an early contender for match of the tournament as they played out an eight-goal thriller at Aspire.
Real, who won the competition in 2017, were pushed all the way by the Russian outfit, who twice took the lead in a game of many chances.
Real tested Zenit keeper Bogdan Moskvichev after just 23 seconds, the lively Abraham Marina seeing his effort beaten out with the ball almost falling into the path of Spanish striker Samuel Polo.
Marina then saw an effort cleared off the line as Real looked for an early goal, and they had another opportunity on 15 minutes when Polo cut inside Iurii Koledin only to shoot straight at the keeper.
It seemed only a matter of time before Real scored and Diego Flores could have been given a penalty but his honesty probably cost him as he did his best to stay on his feet under a heavy challenge.
Yeray Perez was the next Real player to go close, seeing his initial effort saved by Moskvichev before firing the follow-up over the bar. The lively Marina was also twice denied by the impressive keeper but the opening goal did finally come when Nico Paz, wearing a cast to protect a broken arm, rose to head the Spaniards in front following a well-taken corner by Mario Rielves.
Zenit responded superbly and stunned Real with an outstanding solo equaliser just a minute later, Andrei Marianov weaving past three challenges before firing home.
Marina was denied by Moskvichev yet again as Real looked to go back in front before the break but the Russian skipper pulled off his ninth save of the half, and Zenit then pulled off a shock by going ahead on 42 minutes. Nikita Luzan crossed and Nikita Vershinin tried to flick it on to Igor Kozlov who finished in style.
An entertaining first half almost ended with another goal but Vershinin’s free-kick with the final touch of the half crashed against the bar.
Real started the second half brightly, seeing a penalty appeal waved away after Polo’s
shot hit an arm, but the latter soon grabbed a 49th minute equalizer when he fired home after Perez’s shot was saved.
Zenit retook the lead on 52 minutes with a superb volley by Nikita Luzan but the Spaniards fought back in an enthralling game as the classy Paz sent a low left-foot shot into the net for a 57th minute equaliser.
Having kept his side in the game on many occasions, Moskvichev gave away a penalty on 67 minutes, bringing down Perez with his feet as the Spaniard tried to round him, and the striker picked himself up to slot home the spot kick.
Eric Alcon defended superbly to keep Zenit at bay on 75 minutes, just when Evgenii Pshennikov seemed likely to equalize for the Russians, but Real put the game beyond doubt when David Garcia beat the keeper at his near post.
Real will face another tough task when they take on Al Kass debutants Sporting Lisbon on Sunday, and the Portuguese youngsters have a great record in their home country so it promises to be another game of high quality.