Azerbaijan vs. Russia: Final score 1-1, Roman Shirokov's goal sends
Russia to the World Cup
By Zach Woosley
Russia got the result they needed, drawing against Azerbaijan and securing
an automatic qualifying place for next summer in Brazil.
Russia only need a point against Azerbaijan to advance to next summer's
World Cup and that's exactly what they got. Roman Shirokov's 16th-minute
goal put Russia ahead and despite a late strike from Vagif Dzavadov, the
Russians were able to hold on for the draw.
The opening 15 minutes weren't the best for Russia, as they looked a bit
nervy and clearly aware of how important a result for them would be on
the day. Azerbaijan looked the better side for most of the opening quarter
hour but in the 16th minute, a bit of precise passing opened up their
defense and Russia went ahead.
Aleksandr Samedov was the creator, patiently dribbling 30 yards from the
Azerbaijan goal, giving Roman Shirokov the time he needed to find a gap
in the defense. Samedov's pass was perfect and Shirokov took one touch
in the area and sent a chip over the left shoulder of Kamran Agayev to
make it 1-0.
Russia were gifted a chance to double their lead in the 55th minute after
a defensive giveaway allowed Alexander Kerzhakov to break in one-on-one
with Agayev. The Azerbaijan goalkeeper was up to the task though, stopping
the Russian forward's shot with his fingertips.
Azerbaijan's slim hopes of at least getting a point took a blow in the
73rd minute when Maksim Medvedev was shown a straight red card for a late
tackle on Shirokov. It wasn't a particularly malicious tackle but momentum
carried Medvedev into Shirokov, putting his studs into the Russian's ankle.
The referee was right on top of the play and never hesitated with his
Azerbaijan fans, none too pleased with the score and the red card, showered
debris on Russia as they attempted to take a corner in the 79th minute.
It took a couple minutes for things to calm down as Azerbaijan players
gestured and pleaded with fans to allow the match to proceed.
Just because Russia needed a tense finish, Azerbaijan pulled even at 1-1
in the 90th minute after a long cross into the area was met by Vagif Dzavadov
and headed past Igor Akinfeev.