Russia vs. Luxembourg: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
By Alex Dimond
A goal after just 18 seconds set the tone as Russia leapfrogged
to the top of Group F—for a few hours at least—with a comfortable win
over Luxembourg in Friday's World Cup qualifier in Kazan.
In a game that was delayed by an hour due to a sodden pitch, Alexander
Kokorin scored twice, Aleksandr Kerzhakov notched just after the hour
mark and Alexander Samedov fired home in injury time as Fabio Capello's
men ran out eventual 4-1 winners.
Luxembourg had their moments (Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was hardly
a spectator, even before Aurelien Joachim's late consolation) but showed
an acute lack of a cutting edge, as the home side demonstrated composure
and superior quality to calmly build on the platform afforded them by
Kokorin's record-breaking opener.
There has never been a quicker opening goal in the history of Russia's
national team. Kokorin ran onto Kerzhakov's astute knockdown before lofting
a perfectly weighted shot over the onrushing Luxembourg goalkeeper, ensuring
his side hit the ground running.
Having waited an additional hour to get onto the pitch for the first-ever
international contest in Kazan— as the referee gave groundskeepers extra
time to repair an almost water-logged pitch rather than advise a postponement—it
was the perfect start for the hosts, who were looking to rebound after
a shock defeat to Northern Ireland in their last qualifier.
Capello saw his side waste further good openings—Kerzhakov and Roman Shirokov
both narrowly failed to find the target with attempts—before Kokorin got
his second. The 22-year-old peeled off the back of the Luxembourg defenders
to head Dmitry Kombarov's free kick inside the far post.
That left the Dynamo Moscow forward on course for a hat-trick, but it
was not to be, as he was replaced by Aleksei Ionov at half-time.
The change did not affect Russia's threat, however, as Kerzhakov effectively
sealed the points in the 64th minute with another close-range effort,
the forward being in the right place to redirect Sergei Ignashevich's
header from a corner between Jonathan Joubert's outstretched hands.
Luxembourg had not been without their own attacking threat in the difficult
conditions, as they eventually managed a respectable 13 shots to Russia's
14. But they had to wait until the last minute of normal time before they
got any sort of reward, as Joachim ran onto Yannick Bastos' ball before
firing a left-footed effort low and beyond Akinfeev.
That was not quite the end of the scoring, however, with Russia sending
the fans home with one final flourish. The final touch came from substitute
Samedov, who was in the right place to turn home Aleksandr Ryazantsev's
cutback after the midfielder had burst into the box.
Victory moves Russia back to the top of Group F, having claimed 15 points
from their seven outings.
Portugal now sit a point behind having played the same number of games,
but can move back ahead with a win against Northern Ireland in the day's
Russia host Israel in St. Petersburg on Tuesday in another match which
they will both need and expect to win, as they bid to keep Portugal at
bay in the race for automatic passage to Brazil next summer.
Luxembourg, meanwhile, return home for the visit of Northern Ireland—perhaps
hoping for a win that would at least lift them off the foot of the group