Substitute Alexander Kerzhakov scored a late winner as Russia warmed up for the World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Slovakia at the Petrovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg.
The hosts created the better chances in a match that remained scoreless until the final 10 minutes. Kerzhakov, who replaced Alexander Kokorin in the 75th minute, headed in the game's only goal from debutant Maxim Kannunikov's cross in the 82nd minute.
The match was part of Russia's preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Under manager Fabio Capello, Russia will play in Group H against Algeria, Belgium and South Korea, with their opening match (against South Korea) set for June 17 in Cuiaba.
As they prepare for the World Cup, Russia will hope to be more efficient in front of goal. Despite scoring just once, the Russians created several chances before finally scoring the winner late in the match against Slovakia.
Terrible game in St Petersburg, but a win for Russia and a goal for Aleksandr Kerzhakov. There will be plenty of WC warm up games like this— John Bradley (@JBcommentator) May 26, 2014
Russia's preparations will continue Saturday, when Capello's team will travel to play Norway. The Russians' final pre-World Cup tuneup is set for June 6, against Morocco, in Moscow.
Slovakia did not qualify for the World Cup but will begin qualification for Euro 2016 on Sept. 8, with a road match against Ukraine in Group C. Russia, meanwhile, will begin Euro 2016 qualification the same day, at home to Liechtenstein in Group G.
Both teams had chances in the first half, but neither scored before half-time. Russia's Alan Dzagoev set up Alexander Kokorin for a shot from a tight angle in the 28th minute, but Slovakia goalkeeper Jan Mucha parried the ball away.
Ten minutes later, Slovakia had a big chance as Robert Mak found himself through only goal. But with only Igor Akinfeev to beat, Mak's shot was too close to the Russian stopper, who saved.
With the match still scoreless at half-time, Russia looked to have gone ahead in the 58th minute after Kokorin's first-time finish. But referee Mark Clattenburg ruled out the goal for offside and play continued without a goal.
Russia came close again in the 71st minute, Kokorin sending a flicked header off target from Aleksei Kozlov's cross.
With time running low, Russia finally made the breakthrough in the 82nd minute via Kerzhakov, who headed in from close range with what turned out to be the game's only goal.
Alex Kerzhakov scores his 25th goal for Russia, against Slovakia. Two more goals, and he'll be crowned the nation's all-time top scorer.— Eziz (@_allamov) May 26, 2014
Hopefully, those two - preferably, more than two - goals for Kerzhakov will come in Brazil. Needs to respond to his Euro-2012 critics.— Eziz (@_allamov) May 26, 2014