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Zenit St. Petersburg lost 4-3 at home on Wednesday evening
Zenit St. Petersburg lost 4-3 at home on Wednesday evening to Spartak Nalchik, with Euro 2008 star Andrei Arshavin's agent later announcing that the UEFA Cup holders had rejected a $37.5 million bid for their playmaker.

Having earlier turned down a $23.4 million bid from Barcelona for the 27-year-old Arshavin, there was speculation that either Arsenal, or more likely, Chelsea, would win the race to sign the diminutive striker.

However, Dennis Lakhter announced on Thursday morning that Zenit would not let the player go for less than 24 million pounds ($47.2 million dollars), and that they had refused to sell him to an unnamed English side.

The evening before news of the latest developments in the Arshavin transfer saga broke, Zenit took on Spartak Nalchik at home in a match they needed to win to climb up the domestic league table.

Arshavin had been left out of the Zenit line up for Sunday's 5-1 victory over Siberian side Tom Tomsk. The team's Dutch manager, Dick Advocaat, said he would not play the forward until his future had been "cleared up." However, Arshavin later asked to be allowed to return to the team, and he was named in the starting line-up for the fixture.

Wednesday's game began with an exchange of 'well-taken' own goals, with the Georgian defender Aleksandr Amisulashvili hammering a cross into his own net and then Zenit's Aleksandr Anyukov spectacularly heading past Vyacheslav Malafeev. Spartak nudged in front again in the 20th minute when a dreadful mix-up in the UEFA Cup holder's defense allowed Rustem Kalimullin in to make it 2-1.

Another Russian star at Euro 2008, Konstantin Zyrianov, leveled the score just before half-time, finishing off a neat combination. Zenit's Turkish striker Fatih Tekke, playing in place of the injured Pavel Pogrebnyak, broke through the southern Russian side's defense to give his team a 3-2 lead in the 50th minute, and the near-capacity crowd could have been forgiven for thinking that marked the end of Nalchik's resistance.

However, two headed goals from free-kicks exposed Zenit's defense frailties in first the 58th and then the 68th minute, Amisulashvili making up for his own goal by putting one in the right end to seal victory for Spartak Nalchik, lifting them to 5th place in the league.

The Russian football authorities had postponed many of Zenit's games in the run up to the UEFA Cup final in May, and the 2007 league champions are now languishing in 13th place, 10 points behind league leaders Rubin, albeit with 4 games in hand.

"We played well, despite the defeat," said Arshavin after the match. "Both sides demonstrated attacking, open football."

Accusations of corruption are never far away in Russian football however, and a journalist suggested to Zenit midfielder Zyrianov after the game that his side had simply repaid their 'debt' to Nalchik for last season, referring to allegations that many teams in Russia 'swap' victories to ensure titles or league survival.

"What debt?" answered Zyrianov, going on to say that the team had had "a serious discussion" in the dressing room after the final whistle.


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