- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) - Ahmed Musa took CSKA Moscow a step closer to the Russian Premier League title, scoring in a 1-0 win Sunday over Spartak Moscow as defending champion Zenit St. Petersburg continued to struggle.

Musa’s 11th-minute goal against CSKA’s fiercest rival was the product of a smart team move. Roman Eremenko’s long pass from midfield set Musa and Zoran Tosic free behind the Spartak defense, and they combined to beat goalkeeper Artyom Rebrov before Musa finished from close range.

After a first half dominated by CSKA, Spartak pushed forward more in the second but was held at bay by the CSKA defense and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who stopped Quincy Promes’ free kick from a dangerous position in the 82nd.

As the Russian Premier League resumed following its three-month winter break, the win left CSKA three points clear at the top, ahead of FC Rostov, the season’s surprise title contender.

Zenit, meanwhile, remains stranded in fifth after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with fourth-placed FC Krasnodar and is nine points off the top.

Krasnodar’s goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk shone against Zenit on his league debut after signing on loan from Portuguese side Braga. Kritsyuk made some fine reaction saves to deny powerful shots from Zenit’s star striker Hulk, including one in stoppage time to ensure Krasnodar kept a point.

“There were some chances for either side, but it didn’t happen. I think our defensive side was excellent, I think their defensive side was excellent,” Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas said ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League encounter with Benfica.

Rostov returned from the winter break in good form with a 1-0 win Saturday over Krylya Sovetov Samara, with midfielder Alexandru Gatcan scoring the winner. Despite recent financial struggles off the field, Rostov has performed well under two-time Russian league-winning coach Kurban Berdyev.

Third place is held by Lokomotiv Moscow, eight points behind CSKA after losing 2-1 Sunday in Chechnya to Terek Grozny. Lokomotiv coach Igor Cherevchenko was scathing about his team’s performance after taking a fourth-minute lead through Alexander Samedov.

“We started defending from the fifth minute, which I couldn’t understand. I’ll look into it,” he said.

In other results, Rubin Kazan beat Kuban Krasnodar 1-0 and relegation-threatened FC Ufa and Mordovia Saransk played out a 1-1 draw.

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