Clubs from the capital dominated the Vysshaya Liga in 2001 with FC Spartak Moscow earning the league title with a game to spare.
A 3-1 victory against FC Zenit St. Petersburg on Saturday 27 October was enough to guarantee top spot for Spartak and give them the opportunity in 2002 to improve on their disappointing showing in this season's UEFA Champions League, where they finished bottom of their first group stage group with just two points from six matches.
The happy atmosphere at the Lokomotiv stadium almost went sour when Zenit scored a second-minute goal through Andrei Arshavin, but Egor Titov (26) and Vasili Baranov (29) hauled the home side back into the game before Dmitri Perfenov's 56th-minute strike made things certain for Spartak.
Disaster for Zenit
It was to prove a disastrous defeat for Zenit who went into the Spartak game in second place but ended the season in third thanks to a late run for Champions League glory by FC Lokomotiv Moscow. Defeat to Spartak left Zenit needing Lokomotiv to drop points in their final game of the season on 8 November if they were to have any hope of reaching the qualifying round for a place in next season's Champions League. However, a late goal from James Obiorah clinched a 2-1 victory for Lokomotiv in their derby game with Spartak which effectively rendered Zenit's 2-1 win against relegated Chernomorets Novorossyisk meaningless.
League rules dictate that if teams finish the season level on points, they are separated by the number of wins and then by goal difference. Both Lokomotiv and Zenit finished on 56 points with 16 triumphs to their name, but Lokomotiv's superior defensive record ensured they were placed higher. Lokomotiv will now enter the qualifying group for the Champions League while Zenit will have to settle for a place in the UEFA Cup in 2002.
UEFA Cup defeat
Lokomotiv fared better than Spartak in this season's Champions League, finishing third behind Real Madrid CF and AS Roma in the first group stage to qualify for the UEFA Cup, where they were eliminated 3-1 on aggregate by Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the third round
Incredibly, 2001 was the third season in succession in which the Vysshaya Liga had ended with Spartak and Lokomotiv occupying first and second places although, to the credit of the rest of the sides in the Russian top flight, they managed to keep Spartak's winning margin down to four points this season.
Vyazmikin tops scorers
A third side from the capital, FC Torpedo Moscow, grabbed fourth spot in the table with a final day 1-0 win against FC Torpedo-ZIL Moscow and had the honour of seeing striker Dmitri Vyazmikin confirmed as the league's top scorer with 18 goals.
Misery in Voronezh
However, while the celebrations were in full swing in Moscow, Chernomorets Novorossyisk were preparing themselves for relegation and FC Fakel Voronezh played their last game in the top flight for the time being too.
Fakel will not have enjoyed the 6-2 defeat away at Dinamo Moscow which marked the end of their stay in the Vysshaya Liga and will have few fond memories of Anton Khazov who scored four for Dinamo including a hat-trick inside the first 12 minutes of play. In place of Chernomorets and Fakel, the league is preparing to face up to newly promoted clubs FC Shinnik Yaroslavl and Uralan Elista in the 2002 season.
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