MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Samuel Eto’o and Lacina Traore each scored a goal to power high-flying Anzhi Makhachkala to the top of the Russian Premier League with a 2-1 win over Volga Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
Cameroon striker Eto’o put the home side ahead with a clinical finish just before the break, taking advantage of a nice feed by Ivory Coast international Traore.
Eto’o, who joined wealthy Anzhi from Inter Milan last September, returned the favour in the 62nd minute, setting up Traore’s winner three minutes after Volga’s equaliser.
A fifth consecutive league victory put the club from the volatile North Caucasus region, coached by former Russia boss Guus Hiddink, two points ahead of overnight leaders CSKA Moscow, who lost 2-0 to city rivals Dynamo earlier on Sunday.
“Today we had an extra motivation to win because we knew that CSKA had already lost their match,” Dutchman Hiddink, who guided Russia to the Euro 2008 semi-finals, told reporters.
“Now we are the top team in such a strong league as Russia. This is a very important step for our club.”
The only problem for Anzhi on Sunday was the injury to starting goalkeeper Yevgeny Pomazan, who was forced to leave the game with a suspected broken rib early in the first half and will now miss Thursday’s Europa League game against Swiss side Young Boys.
CSKA not only dropped valuable points in the heated Moscow derby but also lost their most creative player – Russia midfielder Alan Dzagoyev – who was red-carded in the second half for lashing out at Dynamo’s Australia international Luke Wilkshire.
Elsewhere, Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg lost further ground in the title race after being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Lokomotiv Moscow on Saturday as both teams finished the match with 10 men.
Zenit have been in turmoil for the past week with several senior players apparently unhappy after the club splashed out more than $100 million on Brazil striker Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel just before the transfer deadline.
The club demoted midfielder Igor Denisov to the reserve team last Sunday after he issued an ultimatum to renegotiate his contract and refused to play.
Leading striker Alexander Kerzhakov was also demoted to the reserves for “improper behaviour” before being recalled after making peace with Zenit’s Italian coach Luciano Spalletti.
Zenit, bankrolled by Russian energy giant Gazprom, dropped to seventh place, five points adrift of fellow high rollers Anzhi, while Lokomotiv are now third, a point behind CSKA. (Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov, editing by Josh Reich)