Mancini makes winning start in Russia

Moscow (AFP) – Italian manager Roberto Mancini chalked up a confident 2-0 win in his first Russian Premier League match as his new club Zenit St Petersburg beat promoted SKA Khabarovsk on Sunday.

Goals by halftime substitute midfielder Daler Kuzyaev and forward Alexander Kokorin set the four-time former Russian champions on their way to a well-deserved win in the season-opening encounter.

The 52-year-old Mancini, who won three consecutive Italian titles with Inter Milan in 2006-08 and led Manchester City to the English Premier League title in 2012, said he was pleased with his new team’s performance in Khabarovsk.

“Khabarovsk are famous for their fighting spirit, they’re well-balanced squad and always battle up to the very end in every game,” said Mancini, who took over Russian league giants Zenit last month.

“It was a difficult match and I’m pleased with every of my men’s performance.

“For us it was important to open the championship with a win. We have played few warm-up games in our training camp and it was vital for us to take the winning start into the new season.”

Zenit looked slightly rusty from the start at the 15,000-seater stadium in Khabarovsk, the city which is seven time zones away to the east from Saint Petersburg, and failed to find the net before the break.

But seven minutes after the interval Kuzyaev lifted Zenit 1-0 up with an unopposed 30-yard screamer.

Kokorin secured Zenit’s win with nine minutes to go when he swept home a rebound after Khabarovsk defence failed to clear a left-wing cross by Oleg Shatov.

Elsewhere, Krasnodar who finished fourth last season, also won their campaign-opener beating two-time former champions Rubin Kazan 2-1 courtesy of a brace by Colombian midfielder Ricardo Laborde.

Belgian forward Maxime Lestienne netted a consolation for Rubin 18 minutes from time.

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