Sports News

Zenit win Russian title in first for Villas-Boas

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Zenit St. Petersburg, led by Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas, won the Russian Premier League title for the fourth time on Sunday after drawing 1-1 at FC Ufa.

The point proved to be enough for Zenit to celebrate with two games to spare, putting them an unassailable eight points clear of nearest challengers CSKA Moscow.

FK Krasnodar, nine points behind with three games remaining, cannot now overhaul Zenit due to their head-to-head record.

The title is the first in Russia for Villas-Boas, the former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur boss, since he took over in March 2014.

League top scorer Hulk increased his tally to 15 for the season with a goal just after the half hour to put Zenit 1-0 up.

A late headed equaliser from Haris Handzic wasn’t enough to dampen the celebrations for the club who have now won three titles in the past five seasons.

Zenit took the Russian Premier League title in 2007, 2010 and 2012 and were also crowned Soviet champions in 1984.

“Zenit still have room to improve and become stronger. There will be changes and by this, I mean within the squad,” said Villas-Boas.

“We need to try and grow in order to win and improve in European competitions. To achieve this, there will be some changes and there will be investment.”

Zenit have led all season and their remaining matches are against Amkar Perm and Lokomotiv Moscow.

“In these matches, we want to get points for our prestige, for the club and for the fans. I am sure no matter what team goes out onto the pitch, we will look only to win,” said the 37-year-old Portuguese.

Hulk said it had been a team effort: “There was not a best player of the season...the most important goal of the season was the one today against Ufa, which brought us the title,” added the Brazilian.

“To point out some particular matches is difficult. There are a number on moments that stick in my memory: the draw against Spartak Moscow, the win over CSKA Moscow... They all helped us to win the title.”

Reporting By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy; Editing By Douglas Beattie/Alan Baldwin