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.