Russian referee to take LIE DETECTOR test after penalty scandal as Spartak Moscow owner threatens to pull team from league (VIDEO)
Sochi were awarded a dubious 90th-minute penalty at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow which Christian Noboa duly converted to earn a 2-2 draw in the teams' opening game of the new Russian Premier League season on Sunday.
The visitors had earlier converted a first-half spot-kick to bring themselves back into the game after Spartak had raced into a 2-0 lead after just 10 minutes.
Both penalties against Spartak were awarded by referee Vasily Kazartsev with the help of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), although the second in particular was highly controversial after Sochi substitute Anatoli Nemchenko went down under contact from Samuel Gigot despite the Spartak defender appearing to stop short of challenging the midfielder.
ААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААААА pic.twitter.com/sBgXAzmWMG— Mikhail Beard (@Ru1Moscow) August 9, 2020
Enraged Spartak fans – who already felt aggrieved at a series of decisions against their team during the run-in to last season – took to social media en mass to vent their anger after the game.
But club owner Leonid Fedun, a wealthy shareholder at energy giants Lukoil, went one step further by threatening to pull the team out of the league entirely.
"You don’t need to support me. I will announce tomorrow that we are withdrawing from the championship," fumed Fedun.
"Let them play without us... I don’t want to participate in this clownery that was staged and spend money as well. [If] Spartak isn't needed, [then] it isn't needed."
Fedun has since reportedly been talked out of his stance by the president of the Russian Football Union, Alexander Dyukov, although he has called for foreign officials to work with VAR amid frequent criticism of its application in Russian football.
Referee Kazartsev has been suspended over the decisions while a ruling is yet to be made on VAR assistant Alexey Eskov.
According to reports in the Russian media, both men will have to take lie detector tests – likely on Tuesday or Wednesday – to answer questions over the integrity of the decisions during the game.
Polygraphs have previously been used to question match officials and Russian Football Union employees where there is the suspicion of bias or potential betting irregularities.
The steps are unlikely to quell the anger of the Spartak fanbase and club officials after they dropped points at the beginning of a season which they hope will bring better fortunes than their meek mid-table finish during their last campaign.
They started brightly on Sunday against Sochi, racing into a 2-0 lead through goals from Russian forward Aleksandr Sobolev, who headed home from a cross, and a rapid counter-attack goal from Sweden's Jordan Larsson – the son of former Celtic and Barcelona star Henrik.
Sobolev celebrated his finish by revealing a T-shirt tribute to his mother, who died at the start August. The forward was booked for the tribute as laws forbid players from removing their shirts, and he was also forced into an anxious wait as VAR checked whether he had pushed the Sochi defender in the lead-up to the goal.
Jordan Larsson turned on the afterburners for that second Spartak goal pic.twitter.com/vZvQuImbQQ— Liam Tyler (@tyler_lj) August 9, 2020
Sochi struck back just five minutes after Larsson's finish when Dmitri Poloz converted a penalty awarded after 20-year-old Spartak full-back Pavel Maslov made contact with Sochi's Kirill Zaika.
Different angle for the Maslov tackle. That shows it is a pen for me, but damn it's still so close. https://t.co/ER6HVnyOvM— Russian Football News (@RusFootballNews) August 9, 2020
The came the late penalty drama as Noboa equalized from the spot and furious Spartak fans were left to vent at officiating which has for months been widely criticized as substandard in the Russian top flight.
When asked why his team appeared to be on the wrong end of so many decisions, Spartak's German manager Domenico Tedesco answered succinctly in Russian and English, saying: "I don't know."
Sochi are in their second successive season in the Russian top flight, avoiding relegation in their last campaign by finishing 12th in the table.
The club from the Black Sea resort has been accused of being an unofficial 'farm club' for its links with Russian champions Zenit, from whom it has taken a large number of players on loan.