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Russia leave it late to see off Azerbaijan

Roman Shirokov's cool spot kick six minutes from time maintained the home side's flawless start to FIFA World Cup qualifying Group F.

Roman Shirokov is congratulated after scoring the winner. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Though his team were given a stern test throughout, Roman Shirokov's penalty six minutes from time earned Russia a fourth consecutive victory in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group F at the expense of Azerbaijan.

If anyone doubted Russia's credentials, those suspicions were dispelled when they overcame Portugal 1-0 on Friday. Building on that eye-catching win, the hosts dominated proceedings in Moscow and eventually broke Azerbaijan's brave resistance courtesy of Shirokov's late penalty.

Berti Vogts's charges had started with intent, forcing four corners in the opening eight minutes, before Russia's technical proficiency came to the fore. Aleksandr Kokorin led the charge, curling an effort narrowly wide, before visiting goalkeeper Kamran Agayev repelled Dmitri Kombarov's thunderous volley. Aleksandr Kerzhakov struck the crossbar on the half-hour mark as Russia's relentless surge continued, while Azerbaijan attempted to stem the flow by harrying and hectoring their opponents.

The pattern of play seldom changed after the restart with Agayev on hand to prevent Branimir Subas(ic' putting through his own net. Ten minutes later Vladimir Bystrov passed up the opportunity to shoot when well-placed in front of goal. His hesitancy sparked Fabio Capello's men into life and they were finally rewarded with the goal their possession merited on 84 minutes.

Bystrov was the catalyst, charging free before being upended in the area by Maksim Medvedev. Shirokov converted the ensuing penalty with nonchalant ease to end Azerbaijan's bold stand and maintain Russia's flawless opening to Group F. They resume their campaign when they travel to Northern Ireland on 23 March., 16 October 2012

Russia - Azerbaijan - 1:0

Qualifying round (Group F)
Moscow - Luzhniki
Referee: STAVREV Aleksandar (Macedonia)
Attendance: 30,000

Russia: Igor AKINFEEV (GK), Sergey IGNASHEVICH, Igor DENISOV (c), Alexander KOKORIN, Alexander KERZHAKOV (Alan DZAGOEV,79'), Vasili BEREZUTSKIY, Roman SHIROKOV, Alexander SAMEDOV (Vladimir BYSTROV,62'), Victor FAIZULIN (Denis GLUSHAKOV, 45'+1), Andrey ESHCHENKO, Dmitry KOMBAROV
Coach: Fabio CAPELLO (ITA)

Azerbaijan: Kamran AGAYEV (GK), Mahir SHUKUROV (c), Vagif JAVADOV, Aleksandr CHERTOGANOV (Rauf ALIYEV, 85'), Jihan OZKARA, Branimir SUBASIC (Rahid AMIRGULIYEV, 63'), Ali GOKDEMIR, Ruslan ABISHOV, Vugar NADIROV (Javid HUSEYNOV, 45'+1), Maksim MEDVEDEV, Volodimir LEVIN
Coach: Berti VOGTS (GER)

Goals scored: Roman SHIROKOV (84' PEN)

Yellow cards: Maksim MEDVEDEV (14'), Vagif JAVADOV (32'), Vugar NADIROV (38'), Kamran AGAYEV (43'),Vasili BEREZUTSKIY (57')

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