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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak Eyes Title After Win Over Lokomotiv




Spartak Moscow swept away Lokomotiv 3-0 at Luzhniki Stadium on Saturday to virtually seal its fourth successive premier division title and restore some pride to Russian soccer.


One week after the disappointment of the national team failing to qualify for the European championships, Spartak and Lokomotiv - which had a combined six players on the national side - played a pulsating game Saturday in front of a crowd of 50,000. And the players who most disappointed in the 1-1 draw on Oct. 9 against Ukraine - Spartak's Alexander Filimonov and Andrei Tikhonov - bounced back in style.


With a nine point lead over second-place Lokomotiv, Spartak needs just one more point from its final two games to complete its domination of Russian soccer in the '90s. Spartak has won seven titles in the eight years since the Russian premier division was formed.


Tikhonov put Spartak ahead on his 29th birthday with a lovely curling shot in the 12th minute, but the cheers from the crowd, overwhelmingly behind Spartak, started much earlier, when goalkeeper Filimonov made his first save. Filimonov, whose last-minute gaff against Ukraine went straight into the top 10 of goalkeeping mistakes, got backing from a crowd chanting "Fili" and banners saying: "We believe in you Sasha."


Fellow Spartak players rushed to congratulate him every time he made a good save - and he made plenty of them, saving at least three certain goals - and it looked as if he was going to have an immaculate game until he dropped a high ball with a few minutes left.


It didn't matter by that time, as Spartak had already sealed the game. Defender Yury Kovtun made it 2-0 in the 34th minute with a diving header at the near post after a deflection from a free kick. Lokomotiv, backed by the sturdy play of midfielder Alexei Smertin, had its chances but never had the confidence or the power up front.


Brazilian striker Robson scored the third with a beautiful chip 10 minutes into the second half. Controlling the ball just outside the penalty box, he knocked it in the air, hit it past Lokomotiv keeper Ruslan Nigmatullin and then danced in front of the ecstatic Spartak fans.


Spartak had been under pressure after the Russia-Ukraine game in which four Spartak players participated, and its 2-1 loss to Bordeaux last September in Champions League play.


"Lokomotiv was a little bit unlucky that it met us now. We were stronger emotionally," Spartak and Russia coach Oleg Romantsev said at a news conference after the game.