17 days to go to the AFC Asian Cup, UAE 2019

St Petersburg stadium debuts as a work in progress

By Samindra Kunti

April 24 – Saint Petersburg’s 69-000 all-seater Krestovsky Stadium has opened two months before the Confederations Cup, but concerns remain over the venue’s readiness. 

This weekend Zenit Saint Petersburg welcomed Ural Yekaterinburg to their new purpose built World Cup stadium. Zenit won the match 2-0 with former Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic and substitute Yohan Mollo scoring the goals. The stadium was only partly full with the top tier had not been closed to the public. It was an emotional baptism for the stadium with Yekaterinburg finishing the match with just eight players.

The completion and opening of the stadium had been a long time in the making after a decade of scandals over bloated construction bills and missed deadlines. Building work began in 2007, but the arena was criticised for a budget overrun of 41 billion  rubles [£567 million].

Last August a new constructor, Metrostroy, was appointed to complete the stadium construction, but misgivings over the retractable playing field caused further delays. FIFA finally approved the venue in December.

The first match was played on a poor field, with a cut-up turf. Zenit manager Mircea Lucescu acknowledged that the pitch had been “not very good” and affected his team’s play.

Alexei Sorokin, head of the 2018 World Cup organising committee dispelled any fears over the state of the pitch.  “Of course there are many pitches of much better quality,” TASS agency quoted Sorokin as saying. “But the experts said the pitch here needs some time to firm up. The grass is too young so far, but in every new game here, its condition will become better and better.”

The stadium will welcome the opening match and final of the Confederations Cup. Next year the venue will host a World Cup semi-final.

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