FC Lokomotiv Moskva reached the UEFA Cup Round of 32 with last night's 4-0 win at Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC but coach Vladimir Eshtrekov remains in a precarious position.
Captain Dmitri Loskov scored with a free-kick, while two goals from Igor Lebedenko and another from Francesco Ruopolo completed the rout early in the second half. Goalkeeper Aleksei Poliakov, handed a rare start after Sergei Ovchinnikov's decision to join FC Dinamo Moskva, iced the cake by saving Salim Toema's penalty.
"Our intention was to come here, win and advance to the next stage," Eshtrekov said. "My team played very good football in the first half and so did Petach-Tikva but the first goal took the wind out of their sails. After scoring the opener we stayed composed while Maccabi collapsed."
Group B leaders Lokomotiv can finish no lower than third after making it seven points from four games. However, few in Russia believe this is what the 2004 domestic champions wanted two months ago when they led the Premier-Liga - only to end up third and miss out on the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League.
Russian daily, Sovetskiy Sport, touched on the problems facing Eshtrekov since he replaced the highly-regarded Yuri Semin: "He has lost all his authority in half a year, and Lokomotiv have stopped looking like their normal selves and turned into a grey mid-table side. It seems nothing will save Eshtrekov from having to part with the club."
Sport-Express, meanwhile, struck the positive note that Lokomotiv, despite their unexpected setbacks, have at least guaranteed European football for next term: "At the end of the day, Loko were the first of our clubs to get European football in 2006. Have a good rest!"
The key to the future rests with club president Valeri Filatov, who appeared to confirm to Sovetskiy Sport that Eshtrekov's days are numbered. "I can confirm that we're working on coaching candidates. But I can't say anything definite," he said. "Vladimir Eshtrekov remains coach for now and his fate will be decided in two weeks."
Filatov also revealed that Lokomotiv have grand plans for new signings, although on-loan Italian striker Ruopolo may leave. "Of course we will have new players but I cannot name them. We will spend about $20m on squad rebuilding," he said. Whether the new boys will be playing under Eshtrekov remains to be seen.
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