An 87th-minute header from Gheorghe Bucur was enough to give FC Kuban a 1-0 win over Mordovia Saransk in the Russian summer heat Thursday.
Bucur found space in the box to meet Igor Armas’ cross with a fierce header that Mordovia goalkeeper David Yurchenko was unable to save.
Dan Petrescu’s Kuban side had the better of the match, hitting the post in the first half after Yurchenko fumbled Marcos Pizzelli’s long-range low shot.
New signing and Bucur’s fellow Romanian Marius Niculae had earlier gone close on three minutes, forcing Yurchenko into a diving save to stop a strong header of his own.
Mordovia played largely on the counter-attack, but created few clear chances as they sought to win their first points of their debut Russian Premier League campaign.
Ruslan Mukhametshin enjoyed Mordovia’s best opportunity when Kirill Panchenko found him in space at the far post on 53 minutes, but Mukhametshin volleyed high over the bar.
Four minutes later, Kuban goalkeeper Alexander Belenov was forced to rush back to stop a Mordovia clearance from dipping below the bar for a freak goal.