Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko scored one and created
another as Guus Hiddink's Russia recorded a straightforward 2-0 win over
Azerbaijan in Moscow.
The match was Hiddink's first in charge of Russia since combining the
role with that of Chelsea manager, and his side did what was required
of them against the group minnows without ever really excelling.
The first half was an underwhelming spectacle, with Russia struggling
to assert themselves and Azerbaijan unable to offer anything but a succession
of wild and speculative long-range shots.
Andrey Arshavin went close for Russia in the third minute, capitalising
on some shaky Azerbaijan defending only to shoot straight at goalkeeper
Pavlyuchenko, despite his key contribution to the game's outcome, at times
looked out of sorts, which was epitomised in the 28th minute when he scuffed
a shot in a good position after fine work by Yuri Zhirkov to create the
The opening goal came four minutes later and was not without controversy.
The Belgian referee ordered Pavlyuchenko's original free-kick to be retaken
after encroachment by an Azerbaijan defender, which the Tottenham striker
duly dispatched at the second attempt, bending the ball through the chaotic
Azerbaijani wall and under the unsighted Veliyev.
Russia went close to doubling the lead early in the second half when Igor
Semshov's drilled cross eluded Arshavin by a whisker, and substitute Alan
Dzagoev could have finished after a further cutback from Semshov only
to stumble at the crucial moment.
Azerbaijan were weakened when Brazilian-born striker Fabio Luis Ramim
hobbled off on the hour after an unfortunate knock on the knee, but the
visitors remained a threat on the counter and created a decent opening
in the 66th minute when Elvar Bakhshiyev struck a 20-yard shot wide of
Igor Akinfeev's post.
But Russia wrapped things up with twenty minutes to play as Pavlyuchenko,
in his final act before being replaced by Pavel Pogrebniak, slipped a
ball through the Azerbaijan defence for Konstantin Zyryanov to rattle
the second past Veliyev.
The Azerbaijan goalkeeper kept out a Sergei Ignashevich effort in the
dying moments as Russia threatened a third whilst Azerbaijan were unlucky
not to claim a consolation when substitute Vagif Dzavadov struck the upright
in stoppage time.
March 28, 2009
Russia - Azerbaijan - 2:0
Russia: Roman Pavlyuchenko (32), Konstatin Zurianov (71)
Stadium: Luzhniki Stadium
Official(s): Serge Gumienny - Belgium (Referee)
1 Igor Akinfeev
18 Yuri Zhirkov
2 Aleksandr Aniukov
4 Sergei Ignashevich
5 Vasili Berezutsky
17 Konstatin Zurianov
11 Sergei Semak
7 Igor Denisov
8 Igor Semshov
9 Roman Pavlyuchenko
10 Andrei Arshavin
1 Farhad Veliyev
14 Rashad F Sadygov
2 Rail Melikov
3 Sasha Yunis Oglu
4 Mahir Shukurov
6 Elmar Bahshiev
8 Jemshid Maharramov
17 Fabio Luis Ramin
9 Samir Abbasov
10 Branimir Subashic
18 Vuqar Nadirov
Alan Dzagoev for Sergei Semak (55)
Vagif Javadov for Branimir Subashic (46)
Pavel Pogrebniak for Roman Pavlyuchenko (72)
Leandro Gomes for Fabio Luis Ramin (61)
Igor Denisov (54)
Sasha Yunis Oglu (23)
Vuqar Nadirov (31)
Rail Melikov (32)
Samir Abbasov (79)