Kerzhakov’s early strike nets Russia vital win against misfiring Portugal
Alexander Kerzhakov’s early strike proved the difference as Russia edged out Portugal 1-0 in last night’s World Cup qualifier in Moscow.
Kerzhakov’s smart finish made it three wins from three at the start of Russia’s Group F campaign, while defeat for Portugal ends their 100 per cent start and leaves them trailing Fabio Capello’s men by three points.
Russia will fancy their chances of maintaining their perfect start when they play host to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, while on the same night Portugal will bid to get back to winning ways when they welcome Northern Ireland.
Just six minutes were on the clock when the home side went ahead at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Roman Shirokov was the architect as he ran on to a pass from Viktor Faitzulin and delivered a superb first-time through-ball that Kerzhakov collected before lifting his finish over the advancing Rui Patricio.
The early goal sparked an immediate response from the visitors, with Cristiano Ronaldo forcing a good save from Igor Akinfeev in the 10th minute before Helder Postiga headed over from the resulting corner.
Although Portugal needed to find a goal it was the hosts who finished on the front foot, with Shirokov going close to adding a second in the 73rd minute when he fired a low shot at Patricio. And with 82 minutes gone Portugal we indebted to Patricio for keeping the deficit at one goal as he pulled off a superb parry from Aleksandr Kokorin’s fierce effort from the edge of the box.
In Group C, Zlatan Ibrahimovic denied the Faroe Islands a famous World Cup qualifying victory over Sweden, with his goal and assist enough to cancel out Rogvi Baldvinsson’s shock opener and seal a 2-1 win.
The north Atlantic minnows had defied expectations in keeping their illustrious visitors at bay until the break, and Baldvinsson’s cool conversion increased the pressure on Erik Hamren’s men.
A tame Sweden had just enough bite to avoid embarrassment, though, Ibrahimovic setting up Alex Kacaniklic before rubberstamping the points himself in the 75th minute.
Italy laboured to 3-1 victory over Armenia as their largely unimpressive World Cup qualifying campaign continued in Group B.
Goals from Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo saw the Italians to the three points, while Armenia Mkhitaryan was on target for the hosts.
In Group I, Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez netted a hat-trick as Spain comfortably made it two wins from two in World Cup qualifying with a thumping 4-0 victory over Belarus in Minsk.
Jordi Alba gave the world and European champions a 12th-minute lead, Eight minutes later Pedro latched onto a lovely pass from David Silva and dinked over the advancing Sergei Veremko, and the Tenerife-born player completed his first international treble with two further goals in the final quarter – first a lob from Xavi’s pass following a swift counter-attack and then another neat finish 18 minutes from time.
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