LATVIA - RUSSIA - 1:1 (1:1)
August 17 2005.
World Cup-2006 qualifying game.
Riga. "Skonto" stadium. 9700.
Referee Graham Poll (England).
Latvia: Kolinko, Stepanovs, Astafyevs (c), Smirnovs, Laizans, Zirnis,
Bleidelis, Verpakovsky, Rubins, Rimkus (Prokhorenkovs, 77), Korablevs.
Head Coach Yuri Andreev.
Russia: Akinfeev, A. Berezutsky, Sennikov, Evseev, Kariaka (Bystrov, 57),
Ignashevitch, Khokhlov (c) (Semshov, 67), Aldonin, Arshavin, Bilyaletdinov
(Kirichenko, 83), Kerzhakov.
Head Coach Yuri Syomin.
Scorers: Astafyev (6), Arshavin (25).
Yellow Cards: Zirnis (27), Arshavin (29), Evseev (40), Astafyev (56),
Aldonin (81), Verpakovsky (90).
LATVIA DENTS RUSSIA'S WORLD CUP HOPES
Russia huffed and puffed to an unimpressive 1-1 draw against Latvia in
Riga on Wednesday, drastically reducing its already slim chances of qualifying
for next year's World Cup in Germany as it failed to impress against a
motivated Baltic side.
The game, partly overshadowed by tense political relations between the
two former Soviet nations, sparked more passion off than on the field.
On the pitch, Latvia always looked the more dangerous side and will be
unhappy to have only drawn.
Russia remains in third place in Group 3, five points behind group leader
Portugal. It will almost certainly have to beat Slovakia away and Portugal
at home to have any remote chance of getting second place and a playoff
"We didn't play very well, especially in the first half," said
Russia coach Yury Syomin, who before the game had lost six players through
injury and suspension. His voice almost gone from shouting at his players,
Syomin added that the team lost the ball too many times. "I think
it was a fair result. Both teams really wanted to win, and ... it doesn't
help one team or the other."
Russia's Andrei Arshavin, right, challenges
Latvia's Maris Smirnovs for the ball during Wednesday's match in
Riga. Photo: Roman Koksarov / AP.
Many Russian fans were looking for more than just a football
victory. "We've waited for this all our lives," said one inebriated
fan, Sergei Bezrukov, 31, a Russian railway worker who has lived all his
life in Latvia.
Other Russian fans walked round in shirts emblazoned with the letters
"U.S.S.R.," which did nothing to endear them to the Latvia fans.
Small sections of the crowd booed each other's anthems before the start
of the game.
The Latvians scored first -- even before the game had started -- with
fans holding up a poster with insults directed at President Vladimir Putin,
enraging Russian fans. The Russian fans evened the score by holding up
nationalist flags and booing loudly during the Latvian anthem. Russia
fell apart within a few minutes of the start of the game as Latvia exploited
an at-times hapless Russian defense with swift counterattacks.
Vitalis Astafjevs hit a stunning volley in the sixth minute, then Latvia
almost doubled its lead with the comedy goal of the season, as the teenage
CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev rushed out to challenge Dynamo Kiev striker
Maris Verpakovskis, only for the ball to roll past him. Akinfeyev simply
stopped running, assuming that the ball would go out of play, and Verpakovskis
managed to steer the ball toward the goal from the narrowest of angles.
But Dmitry Sennikov came to the rescue just in time to clear the ball
off the line.
Russia looked lost midway through the first half, with Latvia creating
many more chances with its swift counterattacks than Russia could with
its attempts at patient build-ups. It was only the will of Zenit St. Petersburg
striker Andrei Arshavin -- who, following a pass from Dmitry Khokhlov,
battled through the defense to hit a shot that rebounded off Latvian goalkeeper
Aleksandrs Kolinko -- that kept Russia in the game. He continued his run
to knock the parry in.
In the second half, Latvia again outshone Russia, although neither of
the teams ought to pose a threat, should they manage to qualify for next
year's World Cup finals.
By the end, Russia was reduced to clumsy fouls to stop the Latvian side,
which was still attacking swiftly on the break. It was only in the last
five minutes that the Russian team managed to seriously threaten the Latvian
goal. Alexander Kerzhakov hit the crossbar with a cross-cum-shot and then
sank to the ground, his head in his hands.
Russia's World Cup chances may have gone at that moment.
Kevin O'FLYNN. The
Moscow Times, August 18, 2005