Two historical Slavic allies met on Wednesday night at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow, and whilst Russia defeated old friend Serbia, the main talking point was the fans' treatment of new Anzhi signing Yuri Zhirkov, who left the pitch after sixty-eight minutes to a chorus of boos and prompted Russia manager Dick Advocaat to admit "I don't understand it at all."
Zhirkov, the left-sided player, who has recently completed a €15 million transfer from Roman Abramovich's Chelsea to Anzhi Makhachkala, was subject to the fans' fury from his first touch of the ball. And even Pavel Pogrebnyak's fifty-three minute winner did nothing to temper the supporters' - possibly unreasonable - anger.
The bile of rage thrown at one of Russia's foremost players stems from the fact that Zhirkov has joined the new kid on the Russian footballing block in Anzhi and the new financial powerhouse of Russian and world football. Since - and during the negotiations of - Zhirkov's move to the Republic of Dagestan, many Russian commentators and pundits have lamented the former CSKA Moscow player for lack of ambition and greed, preferring him to join one of the many Moscow clubs.
But that just about scratches the surface of the issue at hand. Whilst a number of the 19,000 fans at the Lokomotiv Stadium on Wednesday night may have been jeering purely due to the fact that Zhirkov has guaranteed himself a bumper salary, there is a sense in and around Moscow that the government has contributed to the rise of the teams from the troubled North Caucasus region - including Anzhi, Terek Grozny and Spartak Nalchik - at the expense of the Moscow clubs. The gripe illustrates how Russian football ties in with the nation's politics, as fans from the capital protest that the roubles pumped into the North Caucasus region are trickling down to the region's clubs and indirectly meaning that the Moscow tax payer is funding the progression of these clubs.
Anzhi's signing of Zhirkov is, therefore, seen as a result of the Russian government's spending in this region with the club and the player seen as exploiting the special status that the Republic of Dagestan has in the Russian Federation, leading to the unveiling of a horrendous banner outside the Lokomotiv Stadium inscribed with Zhirkov's date of birth, the date of his transfer to Anzhi and then the three letters "R," "I" and "P." Nasty stuff.
Despite the level of abuse and ill-feeling directed at Zhirkov and his transfer to Anzhi, his national team colleagues - including the two Romans: Pavlyuchenko and Shirokov - lambasted the Russian spectators and stood in defiant support of their team-mate. Shirokov, a key member of Zenit's 2010 title winning side, dismissed the jeering majority as "not even people," whilst Tottenham's Pavlyuchenko also came to Zhirkov's aid, questioning the fans' motives: "I never usually talk about the spectators, but this time I have to wonder why they even come to the match. Is it just to throw mud at someone? That's not on. Yury's a good lad. He just got on with his game."
You have to wonder how, after being booed by fans of a team he is performing for, opposition fans from around Russia will react to Zhirkov when he appears in the canary yellow of Anzhi. Unfortunately for Zhirkov he may find out should he be selected for Anzhi's match away at Spartak Moscow on Sunday. And unfortunately for those disapproving Moscow fans, their financial gripes about the North Caucasus region could be about to increase should Anzhi's pursuit of Samuel Eto'o result in the Cameroonian moving to Dagestan.