A goal and an assist from ex-Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov brought Spartak Moscow a 2-0 home win against minnows Mordovia Saransk on Saturday.
Spartak, second last season, move to sixth in the Russian Premier League, leapfrogging Lokomotiv Moscow, who suffered a surprise 2-1 home defeat to Amkar Perm on Friday.
Mordovia stay 15th of 16 teams and in the relegation zone with eight points from 13 games.
Spartak opened the scoring on 42 minutes when Jose Manuel Jurado, on loan from Schalke, netted his first goal for Spartak after picking up a backheel pass from Bilyaletdinov in the center of the box.
Bilyaletdinov turned goalscorer on 64 minutes when he lashed the ball into the far corner from outside the area with Mordovia's defense absent.
“We prepared right for the game and gained a deserved win,” Bilyaletdinov said in televised comments. “We took three points and it is a good result for us so it is important to go on like this.”
Mordovia coach Fyodor Shcherbachenko said his players had been overawed by playing against such a famous team as Spartak.
“I liked the second half more, because there was aggression, movement, but in general the Spartak brand put pressure on us,” he said in televised comments.
Unai Emery made only one change to Spartak’s starting 11 from Tuesday’s Champions League 2-1 win over Benfica, with Argentinian center-back Juan Insaurralde replacing Marek Suchy.
The game took a while to warm up, with 21 minutes passing before the first shot on target, when Spartak midfielder Jano Ananidze saw an effort from range stopped by Mordovia goalkeeper Dmitry Abakumov.
Former Russian international Evgeny Aldonin almost put Mordovia ahead with a powerful strike from the edge of the box that was saved by Artyom Rebrov, Spartak's third-choice keeper, playing because of injuries.
Late in the first half, Spartak forward Ari penetrated Mordovia’s defense to go one-on-one with Abakumov, but the keeper denied him.
The visitors could have scored a consolation goal in the stoppage time when Kirill Panchenko stormed into the penalty area, but his curled strike went wide off the post.
Later Saturday, bottom-placed FC Volga play FC Krasnodar and reigning champions Zenit travel to Vladikavkaz to face Alania.
Sunday sees Rubin Kazan host Anzhi and surprise package Terek Grozny meet second-placed CSKA Moscow, before Dan Petrescu’s Dynamo Moscow take on Krylya Sovetov.
On Friday, a late goal from Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov gave FC Kuban a 1-0 home victory against FC Rostov.