MOSCOW, May 20 (R-Sport) - Anzhi Makhachkala cemented a best-ever third place in the Russian Premier League on Monday after Samuel Eto'o's goal gave Guus Hiddink's side a 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow.
The Cameroonian forward nodded home at the back post on 74 minutes to give the billionaire-backed side three points that take them out of range of Spartak Moscow and FC Kuban, the two clubs who could have caught up.
"It's difficult for Anzhi, we were 1-0 down and we reacted exceptionally. ... I must compliment the team on how it reacted in the second half," Hiddink said in televised comments.
Alexander Samedov put Lokomotiv ahead in stunning fashion, letting fly from 30 yards and seeing his effort crash in off the post. The lead lasted just six minutes, however, as Lokomotiv defender Vedran Corluka turned Mbark Boussoufa's cross into his own net.
The result, eclipsing last season's fifth-placed finish, means Anzhi qualify for the group stage of next season's Europa League, on the face of it, a big success.
"I think this team deserves a big compliment, if you see what they did this year," Hiddink said, referring to a run to the last 16 of the Europa League and reaching the Russian Cup final.
It might still be seen as a failure by club owner Suleiman Kerimov, who set Hiddink the task of Champions League qualification at the start of the season.
It remains unclear if the game was Hiddink's last home match with Anzhi; the Dutch coach's contract expires in the summer and he has not expressed any desire to stay or leave.
"I'm not the youngest, we'll see," Hiddink said.
The defeat sees Lokomotiv remain 10th in a wretched season that could see Sleven Bilic's side finish in the bottom half of the table.
The game took place just a few kilometers from the scene of a twin car bombing earlier in the day that killed at least three people and wounded dozens; a brutal reminder of the kind of insurgent violence that has led UEFA to ban Anzhi from staging European home games anywhere in the North Caucasus region.
Anzhi should have been ahead early on as Rasim Tagirbekov had a shot blocked on the line by Corluka and Brazilian midfielder Jucilei powered a header just over.
Eto'o saw a hard drive saved by Dario Kresic in the Lokomotiv goal in the second half. The hosts continued to press but looked tired in the final third, only able to carve out a winner from a set piece.
Anzhi travel to FC Kuban in the final round of games this weekend, while Lokomotiv will need to beat Mordovia Saransk at home and hope Rubin can beat Krasnodar to finish in the top half.
CSKA Moscow secured the RPL title on Saturday with a game to spare after a 0-0 draw with FC Kuban made Leonid Slutsky's side uncatchable at the top.
Zenit St. Petersburg already had second place locked down before Sunday's 3-1 win over FC Volga, which saw Roman Shirokov booed for congratulating CSKA on winning the title - and then sent off when he directed an obscene gesture at the crowd after scoring the third.
Both Dynamo and Rubin had passed up the chance to, at least briefly, overtake Anzhi into third on Sunday with shock defeats to Alania Vladikavkaz and Krylya Sovetov Samara, respectively.
In other games, Terek Grozny's hopes of qualifying for the Europa League took a critical blow with a 1-1 draw against Mordovia Saransk, who were formally relegated in the process; Spartak climbed to fourth with a 1-0 win at FC Krasnodar; Amkar Perm took a stride toward safety with a 3-2 win over FC Rostov.
The Russian Cup final between CSKA and Anzhi is June 1 in Grozny.