Russia’s road to Brazil 2014 has begun with a 2-0 home win against Northern Ireland in what was Fabio Capello’s first official game in charge.
A minute of silence preceded the match to mourn Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey squad, who were all killed in plane crash a year ago to the day.
The fans haven’t forgiven the national team for their early exit from this year's Euros with the Moscow’s Lokomotiv stadium standing half-empty.
The opening minutes proved that with new faces like Viktor Faizulin, Vladimir Bystrov and Kirill Kombarov in the starting XI, the Sbornaya are so far lacking understanding in attack.
The players also needed time to adjust to the poor quality of the pitch, which seriously hampered their passing game.
It took Russia half an hour to create their first real chance, but when it happened they capitalised, scoring to make it 1-0.
A clever pass from Aleksandr Kerzhkov allowed Faizulin to net his debut goal in the national team’s jersey with a perfect effort to the upper corner.
A couple of minutes later, Roman Shirokov could’ve well doubled Russia’s lead, but his low shot was stopped by Northern Ireland’s veteran keeper, Roy Carroll.
Russia’s coach Fabio Capello swapped Alan Dzagoev for Aleksandr Kokorin in the beginning of the second half.
And the substitution worked, with the latter grabbing a oenalty for Russia after being brought down in the visitors’ box on 78th minute.
Craig Cathcart was awarded a yellow, while Shirokov sent Carroll and the ball into different corners to settle the final score, 2-0.
“We played too cautious in the the first 15-20 minutes, we were very tense,” Fabio Capello, Russia’s coach, is cited as saying by Sportbox.ru. “But then we managed to calm ourselves down, took the ball under control and achieved the results. After the match, the guys said that it was difficult to perform on this pitch.”
“It’s not easy to play against a team, who keep so many men at the back. But it’s even harder when you have to do it on a low quality surface,” he added.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov, echoed the words of his coach, saying that “it was possible to find a better pitch for the national squad in mid-September”.
The striker was also disappointed by the low turnout from the fans in Moscow.
“It’s not the players, who chose the venues for the games,” Kerzhkov told Sport-Express newspaper. “But if the stadium will be packed for our match in another city than it would make sense to play outside the capital.”
Also in Group F, Israel were held to 1-1 draw away in Azerbaijan, while travelling Portugal came from behind to grab a 2-1 win against Luxemburg.
Russia’s next World Cup qualifier is scheduled to take place in Israel on September 11.
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