IT’S a name first made famous by a bare-footed mid-distance Olympic star, then by an Italian forward widely considered as one of the best ever imports to British football.
SCORERS: Aberdeen - Zola 54
However, after marvelling at track legend Zola Bud and Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola, there is now only one Zola on the lips of Aberdeen fans – Calvin Zola.
Zola ended his three-month wait for his first home Aberdeen goal when his 54th-minute strike helped Aberdeen claim a win over north east rivals Dundee United.
His expertly-taken effort moved Derek McInnes’ side into fourth spot and, perhaps more significantly, lifted all pressure on Zola to deliver.
“I’m delighted for Calvin,” said Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes. “He’s the type of striker who thrives on good service and he got that today with the goal.
“If the game was screaming out for a bit of quality then it came at our goal. The movement, the weight of pass and the finish were all excellent and we deserved the win. It’s a good three points against a Dundee United side who will go on and have a very good season.”
Zola added: “The supporters have been great with me. I’ve come to a new club, a new city and they have welcomed me even though they have yet to see the best of me. I hope I have repaid them a little with that goal.”
United themselves had a lot of support as the battled the stormy weather conditions to try and upset their rivals. An impressive 1,837 Dundee United fans travelled north to pack the away end and add spice to an eagerly-anticipated New Firm derby.
The torrential downpour also did little to dampen spirits, only adding to the intrigue and creating a hazard that meant one slip could cost the match.
Early on, it looked like the hosts could be the victims of the weather as they struggled to get a grip on the game and were pinned back for long spells by Jackie McNamara’s men.
Youngster Ryan Gauld was a constant threat and the drive and movement of David Goodwillie pulled the Dons defence to shreds in the first period.
It was only a matter of time, or so it seemed, before the visitors took the lead. Turkish midfielder Nadir Ciftci was first to test Jamie Langfield when he met a Gauld free-kick with his head, only for the Aberdeen keeper to clutch the ball from the air.
John Rankin then tried his luck with an ambitious 20-yard strike that skidded off the sodden turf and wide.
At the other end, Rankin’s poor ball control so nearly handed Aberdeen the lead as he was caught in possession in his own box by Peter Pawlett. Pawlett curled a 25-yard effort goalwards, with Radoslaw Cierzniak beating the ball around for a corner.
The game was now swinging from end to end, with United defender Keith Watson trying his luck with a spectacular overhead kick that bounced wide. Langfield knew very little about that effort, but his opposite number Cierzniak was alert in thwarting McGinn’s efforts to beat him from a 25-yard free-kick to ensure a stalemate at half time.
Aberdeen started the second period in top gear, pressing back Jackie McNamara’s men for long spells. Jonny Hayes was first to make Cierzniak work, with his 20-yard strike forcing the Polish keeper to turn the ball wide. The breakthrough they richly deserved came courtesy of a superb three-man move involving Pawlett, McGinn and goal hero Zola. Pawlett’s low ball in was helped on by McGinn, with Zola sliding beyond Cierzniak from ten yards.
With that goal, the tempo of the game moved up a notch.
Goodwillie was still a threat and as he ghosted into the box on 75 minutes and Langfield had to race off his line to block.
Sub Brian Graham had United’s last chance to rescue something from the game, but he headed over a Gary Mackay-Steven corner to ensure Aberdeen claimed a hard-fought derby success.
“The players in our dressing-room are really down,” admitted United boss McNamara. “I’ve told them not to get too upset because they have put so much into this season that they will get rewarded in the end.”