3 red cards as St. Petersburg's WCup stadium holds 1st game
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) St. Petersburg's stadium for the 2018 World Cup held its first game Saturday with much fanfare, a ragged pitch and three red cards.
The 69,000-seat arena, named simply the St. Petersburg Stadium, started construction in 2007 but was repeatedly delayed and experienced several scandals, including corruption cases and workers' deaths.
Troubles continued at Saturday's opening game, with the field appearing to be in poor condition. There were large brown patches and chunks of the pitch frequently came loose.
The grass had to be replaced recently after the first field died. Lack of light has been blamed because the stadium's roof has often been closed and the mechanism allowing the retractable field to be moved outside isn't in use. That mechanism had to be fixed recently after complaints it was making the entire field wobble.
Visiting team Ural Yekaterinburg finished with just eight men in a 2-0 loss to Zenit St. Petersburg.
The stadium was only partly full because organizers decided not to open the top tier.
Ural's Roman Emelyanov hit the post in the 51st minute before the game changed when Eric Bicfalvi earned a second booking for what seemed to be a legitimate tackle. Enraged Ural striker Roman Pavlyuchenko confronted the referee and was also sent off.
Zenit defender Branislav Ivanovic scored with a header in the 86th, swiftly followed by Ural's third red card - this time for Emelyanov after he and Zenit's Artyom Dzyuba shoved each other.
Substitute Yohan Mollo added a second in stoppage time.
Designed to look like a spaceship on the shore of the Baltic Sea, the St. Petersburg Stadium will host the Confederations Cup final this year and a World Cup semifinal in 2018.