Two of Russia`s 2007 / 08 UEFA Cup representatives began their group stage campaigns with home draws on Thursday.
Zenit St Petersburg quickly went a goal down to AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands before the most-expensive footballer in Russian history, Ukrainian international Anatoliy Tymoschuk, leveled the score with a penalty just before halftime. The game finished 1-1, despite Alkmaar`s goal scorer, Ari, being sent off in the 39th minute.
Up against the Spanish side, Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow also fell behind first, the Argentinean Aguero opening the scoring in the 16th minute with a magnificent volley. Bilyaletdinov powered home an equalizer in the 28th minute, leaving the teams level at the break.
The second half started perfectly for the Spaniards, the former Manchester United striker, Forlan, putting Atletico 2-1 up in the 47th minute. However, two goals in quick succession by Odemwingie, Lokomotiv`s Russian-born Nigerian, put the Moscow club ahead. But victory was snatched from the home side with five minutes to go, Aguero getting his second with a nifty shot.
Russia`s third representative in the UEFA Cup, Spartak Moscow, had a rest day on Thursday. Their first group stage match comes on November 8, at home to Germany`s Bayer Leverkusen, Champions League finalists in 2002. Bayer beat Toulouse 1-0 at home in their first match.
Zenit`s next UEFA Cup fixture is also on November 8, away to the Greek side Larissa, who lost 3-1 in England to Everton on Thursday.
Lokomotiv`s next match is away to Scottish side Aberdeen, also on November 8. Aberdeen made a disastrous start to their group stage campaign, losing 3-0 in Greece to Panathinaikos.
In the UEFA Cup group stages, each team plays two matches at home and two away, with the top three going through to the knockout rounds, where they will be joined by the eight teams finishing in third place in their Champions League groups.
There is currently a real possibility that one of these sides could be current Russian champions, CSKA Moscow, winners of the tournament in 2005, who face an upward struggle to qualify for the Champions League`s knockout stage.