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September 06 2006.
European Championship Qualifying Group E.
Moscow. Lokomotiv Stadium. 27500.
Referee: Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain).
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Alexander Anyukov, Alexei Berezutskiy, Sergei Ignashevich, Denis Kolodin, Yevgeny Aldonin, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Marat Izmailov, Igor Semshov, Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Pavel Pogrebnyak, 53).
Head Coach - Guus Hiddink.
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa, Robert Kovac, Vedran Corluka, Milan Rapaic (Mladen Petric, 58), Niko Kovac, Goran Sablic, Luka Modric, Ivan Klasnic (Marko Babic, 87), Niko Kranjcar, Anthony Seric, Eduardo Da Silva (Jerko Leko, 69).
Head Coach - Slaven Bilic.
Yellow Cards: Eugeni Aldonin (69).


Russia and Croatia started their Euro 2008 Group E qualifying campaigns with a goalless draw on a rainy night in Moscow.

Croatia's Luka Modric (R) and Russia's Roman Pavlyuchenko

Croatia's Luka Modric (R) and Russia's Roman Pavlyuchenko fight for the ball. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Both sides will be happy with the result given their respective problems in the build-up to the game, even though both had their chances to walk away with all three points in an entertaining second period.

The Russians came closest to scoring in an otherwise scrappy and uneventful first half after a threatening run from Andrei Arshavin after 38 minutes.

The Zenit St Petersburg striker, the star man in coach Guus Hiddink's debut victory over Latvia last month, slipped the ball left to Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, but, with the ball running away from him, the Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder could only fire high and wide.

The game suddenly burst into life after the break, with Croatia twice coming close to taking the lead in the half's opening stages.

Ivan Klasnic volleyed a clear chance well wide of the post having been first to react to a splendid curling free-kick from Milan Rapaic, which had cannoned back off the Russia crossbar.

Moments later Russian fans had their hearts in the mouths again as Eduardo Da Silva fired agonisingly wide from a tight angle after Akinfeev had failed to hold Niko Kranjcar's stinging shot.

Russia though, having weathered the Croatian storm, now began to pick up the pace themselves.

Tom Tomsk striker Pavel Pogrebniak replaced Roman Pavluchenko, and came inches away from putting Russia ahead after 61 minutes, failing to connect with Arshavin's cross by a whisker after Stipe Pletikosa had parried Igor Semshov's shot into the path of the Zenit man.

Croatia's Ivan Klasnic (L) and Russia's Alexey Berezutskiy

Croatia's Ivan Klasnic (L) and Russia's Alexey Berezutskiy fight for the ball. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin


Defender Denis Kolodin was next to test the Croatia goal, his downward header clawed out by the busy Pletikosa after 70 minutes.

Five minutes later Croatia had a legitimate appeal for a penalty turned down by Spanish referee Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez after substitute Mladen Petric's shot was charged down by what appeared to be the hands of Russian defender Sergei Ignashevich.

Three minutes from the end Croatia almost grabbed a dramatic winner as Klasnic, despite the presence of three Russian defenders, hooked a volley that bounced agonisingly wide of Akinfeev's goal.

Sporting Life


MOSCOW, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Russia made a slow start to their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign under new manager Guus Hiddink on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 at home with Croatia in their Group E opener.

In their first official match with the Dutchman at the helm, Russia failed to capitalise on their chances on a soggy pitch at Moscow's Lokomotiv stadium in front of a near capacity 30,000-strong crowd.

Despite dropping two points, Hiddink was upbeat afterwards.

'You can never be satisfied with a draw at home but our young team gave a good account of themselves,' he said.

Guus Hiddink

Russian national soccer team coach Guus Hiddink reacts. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

'We had a difficult start for the first 15-20 minutes but after we made changes in the second half I think we had the better of the play,' he added.

'We were just too excited to finish off our chances. We were also lucky with one of their free kicks that hit the bar.'

Croatia manager Slaven Bilic was happy taking a point.

'I'm very satisfied with the result, especially because we played nice football tonight,' he said afterwards.

'I think we were the better side and were closer to scoring than them. We made three or four stupid mistakes on defence in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, but apart from that, we dominated for much of the game.'

After a timid first half Russia enjoyed the better chances after the break with Andrei Arshavin going close with a crunching volley from the edge of the area and substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak just missing with a low 10-metre shot.

Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa also made a fine diving save to keep out Igor Semshov's powerful drive from close range.

At the other end, Croatia tested Igor Akinfeyev with several long-range efforts and Milan Rapaic's free kick hit the crossbar in the 50th minute.

Croatia's preparations for the match had been disrupted after Bosko Balaban, Ivica Olic and Dario Srna were expelled from the squad after leaving the team's training camp to go to a nightclub in Zagreb.

The Croats were already missing defenders Igor Tudor, Dario Simic and Josip Simunic through injury and suspension.

The Russians also had a rash of injuries to key players, including captain Alexei Smertin, top striker Alexander Kerzhakov and playmakers Yegor Titov and Dmitry Loskov.


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