Kerzhakov strikes early to keep Russia on track
Group F Russia 1 Portugal 0:ALEXANDER KERZHAKOV scored early for Russia to earn their third consecutive win of their World Cup qualifying campaign under Fabio Capello yesterday.
The home team took advantage of Portugal’s unfamiliarity with the Luzhniki Stadium’s artificial turf as Kerzhakov broke clear on goal in the sixth minute following some quick one-touch passing featuring his Zenit St Petersburg team mates Viktor Faizulin and Roman Shirokov.
It was the striker’s third goal in the first three qualifiers following a brace in last month’s 4-0 drubbing of Israel. After the goal, Portugal dominated for the remainder of the first half and captain Cristiano Ronaldo was a constant threat but did not get many clear-cut chances.
Portugal full back Bruno Alves, who plays in the Russian league for Zenit and looked more comfortable on the slick surface than most of his compatriots, had the best chance in the first half but his powerful header was well saved by Akinfeyev.
“Today, I saw a Russian team that played with huge desire, huge commitment,” said Capello, who replaced Dick Advocaat as coach following Russia’s poor showing at Euro 2012. “Nevertheless, it was a very tough match.”
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure after the break while Russia looked content to hold on to their lead. Alexander Kokorin wasted a good chance to double the score in a rare counter-attack late in the game, but his effort from 18 yards was stopped by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Portugal host Northern Ireland in Porto on Tuesday.
RUSSIA: Akinfeyev; Anyukov, Ignashevich, Berezutsky, Kombarov; Shirokov, Denisov, Bystrov (Samedov 83), Faizulin (Glushakov 46); Kerzhakov (Yeshchenko 65), Kokorin.
PORTUGAL: Patricio; Pereira, Alves, Pepe, Coentrao (Lopes 20); Veloso, Moutinho, Micael (Varela 67); Nani, Postiga (Eder 75), Ronaldo.
Referee: V Kassai(Hungary).