Alexander Kerzhakov's early strike proved the difference
as Russia beat Portugal 1-0 in Friday night's World Cup qualifier in Moscow
Cristiano Ronaldo looks to find space / sportinglife.com
Kerzhakov's smart finish made it three wins from three at the start of
Russia's Group F campaign, while defeat for Portugal ends their 100 per
cent start and leaves them trailing Fabio Capello's men by three points.
Russia will fancy their chances of maintaining their perfect start when
they play host to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, while on the same night Portugal
will bid to get back to winning ways when they welcome Northern Ireland.
Just six minutes were on the clock when the home side went ahead at the
Roman Shirokov was the architect as he ran on to a pass from Viktor Faitzulin
and delivered a superb first-time through-ball that Kerzhakov collected
before lifting his finish over the advancing Rui Patricio.
The early goal sparked an immediate response from the visitors, with Cristiano
Ronaldo forcing a good save from Igor Akinfeev in the 10th minute before
Helder Postiga headed over from the resulting corner.
With 14 minutes gone Portugal attacked again, this time Bruno Alves turning
a powerful header on target from a Miguel Veloso free-kick but Akinfeev
was again on hand to make the save.
Despite that brief spell of pressure Portugal were unable to create any
clear-cut chances for the remainder of the first period, and as the second
half went on their frustration increased.
The mood of the Portuguese camp was not improved when Ronaldo went down
clutching his face following an off-the-ball tangle with Aleksandr Aniukov
on the edge of the Russian box just before the hour.
Referee Viktor Kassai was unimpressed with the Real Madrid man's typically
theatrical reaction to the contact and waved Ronaldo to his feet.
Akinfeev kept Russia's lead intact with another save from a Postiga in
the 63rd minute, while a short time later Ronaldo blazed an effort over
the bar from the edge of the box.
Although Portugal needed to find a goal it was the hosts who finished
on the front foot, with Shirokov going close to adding a second in the
73rd minute when he fired a low shot at Patricio.
And with 82 minutes gone Portugal we indebted to Patricio for keeping
the deficit at one goal as he pulled off a superb parry from Aleksandr
Kokorin's fierce effort from the edge of the box.
Qualifying round (Group F)
Referee: V. Kassai (HUN)
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Aleksandr Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich, Vasili Berezutski,
Dmitri Kombarov, Igor Denisov (с), Roman Shirokov, Vladimir Bystrov (Alexander
Samedov 83'), Viktor Fayzulin (Denis Glushakov 46'), Aleksandr Kokorin,
Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Andrei Yeschenko 65').
Coach: Fabio Capello (ITA).
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao
(Miguel Lopes 20'), Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ruben Micael (Silvestre
Varela 66'), Cristiano Ronaldo (c), Helder Postiga (Eder 75').
Coach: Paulo Bento.
Goals scored: Kerzhakov (6).
Yellow cards: Miguel Veloso (43), Roman Shirokov (89), Aleksandr Kokorin