VADUZ, Liechtenstein -- Russia continues to earn their points the tough way. After a sloppy victory over Azerbaijan, the Red Army ventured west to continue their quest of catching Germany in Group Four.
Liechtenstein, coming off a 4-0 loss at the hands of the Germans, were determined from the beginning to have a better showing for the home crowd. Still scoreless through five matches, the locals decided to keep the same lineup as they had fielded throughout qualifying.
Russia boss Guus Hiddink had the luxury of fielding two star Premier League talents in strikers Andrei Arshavin of Arsenal and Roman Pavlyuchenko of Tottenham, along with a cast of Zenit St. Petersburg starters.
The overachieving Liechtenstein side had a couple chances early off long strikes from veteran Siena striker Mario Frick, all which went careening out of harm. They also did a splendid job at clogging up the middle and denying opportunities for Pavlyuchenko and Arshavin.
After 25 minutes of action, the Russian attack started to pick up speed. Dmitri Torbinsky of Locomotiv, getting his first start in World Cup qualifying, missed a golden opportunity on a ball from Arshavin.
A few minutes later, the Russians were able to land their first goal after some fancy footwork and passing - or so it appeared.
Pavlyuchenko's goal was ruled no good after a late offsides call from Irish referee David McKeon. The celebration would be short lived and the sides play on, still deadlocked at nil.
The waves of attacks kept coming, and every near miss by Russia caused a collective groan from the Red supporters.
Pavlyuchenko nearly got his goal back when keeper Peter Jehle came wandering out, but his drive missed the empty net high.
Russia finally got on the board for good after Arshavin threaded a pass through two Liechtenstein defenders right to Zenit's Konstantin Zyryanov, who cooly poked it past goalkeeper Jehle for his second goal in four days.
Despite conceding a goal, Liechtenstein proved that they weren't going anywhere.
Midfielder Michele Polverino launched a barrage of shots before the half, with varied results. One came jarringly close to squeezing in, while others nearly flew into orbit.
After halftime, Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko were pushing hard for the knockout second goal. Liechtenstein continued to come after the Russians, with the substitution of striker Raphael Rohrer. After a fairly uneventful half hour, the action began to heat up again on both sides.
More missed opportunities by the Russian side as Yuri Zhirkov fired just wide in the 80th minute.
Despite Liechtenstein striking worry into the hearts of Russia in the waning few minutes of the match, no harm was done as keeper Igor Akinfeev posted his third consecutive clean sheet in World Cup qualifying.
"I always want to score, and this was no exception. But moreover I want to win and it does not matter who is going to score in this case." - Andrei Arshavin.
Scoring: Russia 1 (Zyryanov '38), Liechtenstein 0
Yellow Cards: Russia (Anyukov '82)
Red Cards: None
- Zyryanov, Pavlyuchenko and Arshavin all have two goals apiece in qualifying.
- Russia remains four points behind group leader Germany, although Russia has one less game played. Germany defeated Wales 0-2 with the aid of an own goal by the Welsh side.
- The Red Army will not take the field again until the middle of June when they head to Finland for a key Group Four battle.
- Liechtenstein has still not scored (0 Goals For, 13 Goals Against) in World Cup qualifying and has only salvaged a draw with Azerbaijan.