- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

KAZAN, Russia (AP) - CSKA Moscow fought off a challenge from surprise title contender FC Rostov to win the Russian Premier League for the sixth time Saturday, while Soviet-era giant Dynamo Moscow was relegated for the first time.

Roared on by thousands of traveling fans, CSKA held on to an early lead to win 1-0 at Rubin Kazan, knowing that if Rubin had equalized Rostov would have taken the title on the head-to-head record.

Alan Dzagoev scored the vital goal for CSKA with a fierce shot in the 19th minute after a defensive lapse from Rubin, and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev preserved the lead with a spectacular double save in the 86th.

“All those five seconds, (my heart) was stopped,” CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky said of the double save. “Everything’s great.”

Akinfeev said he acted on instinct to keep out the initial shot from Igor Portnyagin and Denis Tkachuk’s follow-up. “What can I say about it? I was lucky,” Akinfeev said.

Both teams could have scored more, with Rubin’s Mijo Caktas rattling the bar in the first half, and CSKA’s Zoran Tosic hitting the post shortly before the break.

Winning the title could be the last act at CSKA for Slutsky, who has been splitting his time with the Russian national team this season but is under pressure to go full time with Russia ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

It is CSKA’s third title in four seasons, all under Slutsky’s leadership, earning a place in the Champions League group stage next season.

Runner-up Rostov, which beat Terek Grozny 2-0, goes into the Champions League qualifying rounds, while reigning champion Zenit heads for the Europa League in third.

That ends a remarkable season for Rostov, which barely survived relegation last season and has maintained a shock title challenge despite severe financial problems. Coach Kurban Berdyev and Iranian star striker Sardar Azmoun are among several personnel already being linked with transfers elsewhere in the summer.

Besides Zenit, Europa League places go to fourth-placed FC Krasnodar, whose striker Fyodor Smolov topped the league with 20 goals, and Spartak Moscow.

Zenit beat Dynamo 3-0, with former Dynamo star Alexander Kokorin among the scorers. It was the first relegation in Soviet or Russian football history for Dynamo, the club of Soviet goalkeeping great Lev Yashin.

Dynamo was forced to slash spending after sanctions from UEFA last year for breaking financial fair-play rules. However, it kept several current and former Russian international players and had been widely expected to dodge relegation easily.

Mordovia Saransk, which lost 3-0 to Lokomotiv Moscow, was also relegated. That leaves just six of the 11 host cities for the 2018 World Cup with a top-flight club.

Second-tier sides Gazovik Orenburg and Arsenal Tula won promotion to the Premier League for next season. Gazovik is owned by Russian state gas company Gazprom, which also owns Zenit and is transferring ownership of the club to the regional government to avoid a conflict of interest. The name will be changed to FC Orenburg.

In playoffs for relegation and promotion, Premier League teams Anzhi Makhachkala and Kuban Krasnodar face second-tier clubs Tom Tomsk and Volgar Astrakhan.

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