MOSCOW, April 7 (Reuters) - Champions Zenit St Petersburg beat lowly Krylya Sovietov Samara 1-0 thanks to a dubious penalty by Brazil striker Hulk on Sunday to keep alive their fading hopes of retaining their Russian league title.
Hulk, who joined Zenit for a Russian league record of 60 million euros ($78.13 million) fee last year, scored from the spot in the 14th minute after being fouled on the edge of the box to give his team their third consecutive victory.
However, Samara coach Gadzhi Gadzhiyev said his team had been robbed.
“Zenit are a much stronger team than ours but they didn’t deserve their victory today. First of all, the foul on Hulk was outside the penalty area. Second, there was no foul at all,” Gadzhiyev told Russian television NTV Plus.
“The referee just robbed our team. It was a biased decision. Of course, what (Ramzan) Kadyrov had done in a recent match was wrong but now I can understand his feelings.”
Chechnya’s strongman leader Kadyrov, who serves as honorary president of local team Terek Grozny, insulted a referee over a loudspeaker, calling him a “sellout” and “donkey” after he sent off the Terek captain in last month’s game against Rubin Kazan.
“We don’t have a huge budget like other teams but it doesn’t give the referee the right to kill our team,” Gadzhiyev said.
Zenit’s Italian coach Luciano Spalletti tried to avoid any controversy, saying: “I don’t know if the penalty was right or wrong but it didn’t help our team. It disrupted our concentration. I think we would have won by a bigger margin if we didn’t have that penalty.”
Nevertheless, the win helped Zenit close the gap on league leaders CSKA Moscow, who beat Volga Nizhny Novgorod 2-0 on Saturday, to eight points with seven matches remaining.
Big spenders Anzhi Makhachkala dropped 12 points off the lead after being held to a 0-0 home draw by bottom team Alania Vladikavkaz, extending their winless streak to five games.
Guus Hiddink’s team, who have scored only once in four games, failed to break down a spirited Alania’s defence despite getting captain Samuel Eto‘o, Russia striker Fyodor Smolov and Brazilian playmaker Willian back in the line-up from injury.
“I can’t blame my players for not trying. Everyone was giving their best effort but just couldn’t get a goal,” said Hiddink.
“Don’t forget we’re still a young team, a team in progress.” (Editing by John Mehaffey)