Russian leaders Lokomotiv play ‘away’ game at home, but lose

Moscow (AFP) – The controversial decision to allow Lokomotiv Moscow to play their away match against Amkar Perm at home ended in embarrassment for the Russian Premier League leaders after a 2-1 loss.

Amkar’s pitch in Perm has been declared unplayable and their home games are being played at neutral venues, but Lokomotiv president Ilya Gerkus reportedly offered to give Amkar the gate receipts and pay their expenses in exchange for playing the match at his team’s RZD Arena.

The decision by the league to allow Lokomotiv to play an extra home match angered other clubs, including closest title rivals Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow.

But a double from CSKA loanee Aaron Olanare saw Amkar win at Lokomotiv for the second time in the league this season.

“If the league regulations allow (teams) to do that, we should also try to switch our match with Amkar to Moscow if the pitch there will still be in poor condition,” Spartak coach Massimo Carrera told Sport Express.

“But I think it would be more logical to play the match at the neutral venue.”

Arsenal Tula general director Dmitry Balashov accused Lokomotiv of “unsportsmanlike” behaviour.

“The decision to play Lokomotiv’s away match at their home ground adds some unsportsmanlike features to our championship,” he told Sport Express.

“It affects the other clubs psychologically.”

Meanwhile, Gerkus denied any wrongdoing, saying that the final result should bring an end to the controversy.

“We’ve created excellent conditions for the fans and footballers,” he said. “They’ve played at a quality pitch, they’ve been supported by a huge crowd. We didn’t do anything wrong for the country’s football.”

The league chiefs who gave Lokomotiv the green light to play the match in Moscow on Saturday responded quickly, saying that they had issued a proposal to change the regulations.

The new rules will not allow clubs to play their home matches at their opponents’ stadiums.

Lokomotiv lead the table by two points from reigning champions Spartak and have a game in hand.

On Sunday, last season’s runners-up CSKA Moscow edged Rostov 2-1, just days from a testing trip to Arsenal in the Europa League quarter-finals.

Georgy Shchennikov and Pontus Wernbloom scored one goal each as CSKA stay third in the table, five points adrift of leaders Lokomotiv. 

Sverrir Ingason was on target for the hosts but could not prevent CSKA celebrating a first win at Rostov since 2006.

“We played good football considering the low quality of the pitch,” said CSKA coach Viktor Goncharenko. 

Roberto Mancini’s Zenit St Petersburg beat Ufa 2-1 in driving snow to keep alive their hopes of reaching next season’s Champions League.

Former Chelsea full-back Branislav Ivanovic put Zenit into the lead in the 17th minute before Ufa’s Romanian defender Ionut Nedelcearu then put through his own goal four minutes later.

Croatian midfielder Ivan Paurevic pulled one back for Ufa with 27 minutes remaining but Zenit held on to end a three-match winless streak.

“It’s hard to perform quality football when there are such unfavourable weather conditions,” Mancini said. 

“Besides, we have plenty of our first-choice players on the injury list.”

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