Russia Scrap to Victory Over Azerbaijan, Earn Important Points
In front of over 70,000 at Luzhniki Stadium, Russia earned the all-important points in a victory over messy Azerbaijan.
Guus Hiddink and Russia found the confines of old Lenin "puddles" yard to be very homely once again in the UEFA World Cup qualifying.
Hiddink, managing his first match since taking over the reigns at Chelsea FC, had several reasons for concern early.
Striker Andrei Arshavin missed a golden opportunity to gain an early lead. Taking an excellent ball in the third minute, the new Gunner passed through Azeri defense with ease but took a poor shot, sending it right into the mitts of keeper Farkhad Veliyev.
Azerbaijan did a superb job at mucking the match up in a hurry. Taking many ridiculous and wild long-range shots, Branimir Subashic and partner-in-crime Vugar Nadirov took control. Russia continue to look out of sorts, especially the midfielders.
The Red Army finally broke through with a free kick in the 32nd minute. Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko launched a guided missile behind the Azeri keeper.
After the first attempt was waived off, Pavlyuchenko hammered the second attempt home easily.
He was not so impressive in the rest of the match.
Poor Russia marksmanship matched with hectic Azeri defense proved to keep the match at a one-nil advantage going into half.
The second 45 started much like the first one did, with Arshavin missing another attempt.
Igor Semshov fired a perfect cross, only for Arshavin to miss it by a hair. Too close, once again!
Poor Andrei, he was not a lucky man today.
Azerbaijan quickly returned the favor, as Elvar Bakhshiyev broke free only to crush a ball that ended up somewhere on Sparrow Hill.
Pavlyuchenko finally reappeared in the 71st minute, where he slipped a perfect ball through the defense to Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov, who promptly shot it past the keeper. Two-nil to Russia and all but the match too.
Just enough time before Pav was yanked in favor of the more defensive-oriented Pavel Pogrebniak only seconds later.
Russia possession in the second half was remarkable.
Nonetheless, the Red Army could have had four or five goals. But a win is nice too.
Russia now has nine points in four games, and trail Germany for the lead in Group Four. The Germans have played five matches and have 13 points.
Germany defeated Liechtenstein by a tally of 4-0.
Andrei Arshavin still leads Russia with two goals through four games, despite being held off the score sheet today.
Russia takes on bottom-feeder Liechtenstein on April Fools day at the cozy Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz.
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