Football: Zenit sanctioned for crowd trouble

MOSCOW (AFP) - The Russian Football Union (RFU) on Wednesday hit Zenit St Petersburg with a 0-3 loss in Sunday’s match with Dynamo Moscow which was abandoned late in the game because of crowd trouble.

The Saint Petersburg side were also told to pay a one-million rouble (S$36,750) fine for their fans’ unruly behaviour and ordered to play their next two home league matches behind closed doors.

After that, popular sections of the Petrovsky stadium will be closed for Zenit’s next three home matches.

“Zenit were penalised with a technical 3-0 defeat for their inability to secure public order at the arena and for their fans’ assault that forced the game to be abandoned,” RFU disciplinary panel chief Artur Grigoryants said.

Zenit fans invaded the pitch at the Saint Petersburg stadium with three minutes remaining of Sunday’s game with Dynamo 4-2 up.

One fan attacked Dynamo defender Vladimir Granat and punched him on the head as Zenit were headed for a shock home defeat in a key game in the Russian title race.

Sunday’s defeat was Zenit’s first under new manager Andre Villas-Boas, who took over the club in March.

The verdict means that Zenit remain second with 60 points from 29 matches, one point behind leaders CSKA, while Dynamo are in fourth spot with 52 points.

Zenit general manager Maxim Mitrofanov said he was relieved the club had not been ordered to play their home matches at a neutral venue, adding that the club was working on measures to prevent future trouble.

“The verdict is harsh but it’s very important that football remained in Saint Petersburg,” the R-Sport news agency quoted him as saying.

“And after two matches behind closed doors the true football lovers will be able to watch Zenit matches.

“As far as closing the fans’ sections is concerned, it’s only part of the measures that the club is now working out together with Saint Petersburg police and the City Hall to prevent any possibility of the fans’ unruly behaviour in the future.”

Last season Zenit were also handed a 3-0 technical defeat at Dynamo Moscow after a firecracker thrown by one of their fans injured Dynamo goalkeeper Anton Shunin.

Zenit were also sentenced to a 1.3 million-rouble fine and ordered to play two top-flight matches behind closed doors and they went on to finish second, two points behind champions CSKA Moscow.