RUSSIA - PORTUGAL - 0:0
September 07 2005.
World Cup-2006 qualifying game.
Moscow. Lokomotiv stadium. 28800.
Referee: Markus Merk (Germany).
Russia: Igor Akinfeev; Alexei Berezutsky, Dmitry Sennikov, Sergei Ignashevich,
Vasili Berezutsky, Marat Izmailov (Sergei Semak, 74), Alexei Smertin (c),
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Yevgeny Aldonin, Andrei Arshavin (Alexander Anyukov,
88), Alexander Kerzakov.
Head Coach Yuri Syomin.
Portugal: Ricardo Pereira; Paulo Ferreira, Jorge Andrade, Francisco Costinha,
Luis Figo (c), Nuno Valente, Ricardo Carvalho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nuno
Maniche (Joao Moutinho, 81) , Deco (Simao Sabrosa, 77), Pedro Pauleta
(Helder Postiga, 68).
Head Coach coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil).
Yellow Cards: Yevgeny Aldonin (33), Deco (31), Alexei Smertin (35), Ricardo
Carvalho (48), Pedro Pauleta (66), Luis Figo (78).
Red Card: Alexei Smertin (44 - 2nd yellow card).
RUSSIA EKES OUT DRAW AGAINST PORTUGAL
Portugal's Luis Figo, center, being challenged by Russia's Alexei Smertin,
left, and Yevgeny Aldonin, right, during Wednesday's match at Lokomotiv
A 10-man Russian side held out for a 0-0 draw against Portugal on Wednesday
at Lokomotiv Stadium in a result that did it no favors in its fight for
a place in the World Cup finals but still left it with a fighting chance
Captain Alexei Smertin was harshly sent off just before halftime for a
second bookable offense, but to its credit, Russia held off the Portuguese,
who fielded much the same star-studded team -- with players such as Figo,
Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo -- that beat Russia 7-1 last November.
"I have big hopes that we can reach the finals," coach Yury
Syomin said after the game. "The players wanted to win. Today's game
showed that we can play on the same level as the vice champions of Europe."
Portugal's Deco, left, and Russia's Yevgeny
Aldonin, right, challenge for the ball.
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.
With Slovakia's game against Latvia finishing 1-1 on Wednesday,
Russia will almost certainly have to beat the Slovaks in Bratislava in
its last game on Oct. 12 to get one of the playoff spots, which are handed
to the second-place finishers in each group.
The Russian team's fate has been entwined with Portugal over the 18 months
from a 2-0 defeat in the Euro 2004 that knocked it out of the tournament
to the humiliating 7-1 defeat in Lisbon last year, which ushered in Syomin
With Dynamo Moscow more Portuguese than many of Portuguese league sides
and Dynamo's Portuguese midfielder Maniche making less-than-flattering
remarks about the Russian Premier League a few days ago, the game had
a certain grudge factor. As Maniche misplaced a pass, one fan said: "See,
the Russian league has taught him something."
One tier of the stadium saw fans dressed in red, white and blue as part
of an "I Love Russia" event that also included an attempt to
set a world record for the singing of the anthem.
Even before the sending off, Russia had been pushed back after a promising
20 minutes that saw it play the ball around, with strong runs coming from
Smertin and Marat Izmailov, until Portugal's class began to show. With
only one attacker, Syomin had picked a defense-minded side, but neither
team looked particularly set to score, with Portugal reduced to shooting
from outside the box and never threatening the Russian goal. Alexander
Kerzhakov had the best chance after a typical St. Petersburg connection
with his Zenit teammate Andrei Arshavin. Kerzhakov dropped a shot from
just outside the box for Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira to tip
Ronaldo, playing despite his father's recent death, caused Russia's defense
innumerable problems, and it was a foul on Ronaldo that gave Smertin his
first yellow -- and one on Deco that earned him the second. However, neither
foul looked malicious enough to warrant a yellow card.
"Deco had no right to behave as if he had been killed," Syomin
His expulsion opened up the game in the second half. Although Portugal
dominated, with Ronaldo getting a number of shots and a header on target,
Russia, with its most dangerous player, Arshavin, again to the fore, was
able to create more chances on the break than in the whole of the first
half. Diniyar Bilyatedinov even pulled off a zig-zag run from midfield
that Ronaldo would have been proud of -- although it did not lead to a
clear chance, much like many of the Manchester United winger's runs.
With the draw, Russia has 19 points in 10 games, with Portugal five points
ahead and almost certain to claim automatic qualification. Russia, its
chances for qualification growing slimmer by the game, hosts Luxembourg
on October 8.
By Kevin O'FLYNN. The
Moscow Times, September 8, 2005