Snake stops play: Russian football match halted as officials and groundsman wielding fork scoop up slippery pitch invader (VIDEO)

There was an unexpected visitor to a Russian Premier League match on Monday as a snake in the grass entered the home box, tried to evade stadium staff and forced a referee to temporarily stop the action at Chechnya's Akhmat Arena.

A little more than six minutes of the top-flight league match had been played when the ophidian intruder was spotted lurking deep inside the penalty area, with a man wearing a black outfit and an accreditation lanyard around his neck venturing onto the turf in an attempt to deal with the slippery situation.

The man initially appeared to try to stop the snake with his foot, then seemed to reach for the reptile with his hand before perhaps thinking better of the idea.

As the match referee held onto the ball and kept his distance, several other members of staff joined the man while they deliberated over how best to deal with their low-lying evasive encroacher.

In a flourish of skill and control that the most adroit of playmakers would be proud of, a member of the grounds team in a pair of white trainers then entered the fray and scooped the snake up on a pitchfork.

Keeping his eye on the creature, the man expertly balanced the snake on his fork as he exited the penalty area and moved behind the goal, only to drop his hostage near a hoarding as several of his colleagues closed in.

The intervention appeared to have worked as the game continued – although hosts Akhmat could have been forgiven for wishing their evening had ended there.

Newcomer Daniil Utkin, who has only just joined the club on a season-long loan, scored an own-goal 20 minutes later to give PFC Sochi the lead in both teams' second match of the new campaign.

Croatian forward Marko Dugandzic added a second after 59 minutes, making Romania international Gabriel Iancu's reply four minutes from time no more than a consolation as Sochi secured their first points of the season to leapfrog Akhmat in the table.

Aside from the three goals and Sochi's three points, one incident is likely to remain etched in the memory and immortalized on social media from the showdown, with several viewers joking that the sight of a snake on the pitch in a high-profile fixture could only have happened in Russia.

"The Russian Premier League match in Grozny, Chechnya had to be paused because of a snake in the penalty area," quipped one fan. "VAR confirmed it was clearly offside."

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