Friday, 8 June 2012

Russia vs Czech Republic (Euro 2012 Group A): Match report

Russia took charge of Euro 2012's Group A thanks to an emphatic 4-1 victory against Czech Republic on Friday.

Roman Shirokov and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added to Alan Dzagoev's double to give Dick Advocaat's side a well-deserved three points. Vaclav Pilar pulled a goal back for the Czechs to make it 2-1 early in the second half but it ultimately proved to be nothing more than a consolation.

The win for Russia takes them to the top of the group after Poland and Greece drew 1-1 in the earlier kick-off.

The Czechs were surprisingly the more lively of the two teams in the opening exchanges but once the opening goal arrived in the 15th minute, they completely imploded and couldn't deal with their opponents' counter-attacking threat.

Zenit St. Petersburg's Alexander Kerzhakov headed Konstantin Zyryanov's floated cross against the inside of the far post and 21-year-old Dzagoev arrived on cue to smash home the rebound.

The goalscorer should have doubled his tally moments later but having latched onto Kerzhakov's crossfield pass he sliced his shot wide.

Shirokov atoned for his teammate's glaring miss to justify Russia's dominance and fire them into a 2-0 lead. Andrei Arshavin's defence-splitting pass was intended for Kerzhakov but although the striker failed to get his foot to the ball, it conveniently rolled into the path of Shirokov who expertly lifted the ball over the onrushing Petr Cech.

The final genuine goal scoring opportunity of the half fell to Kerzhakov but he blazed Zyryanov's deflected pull back over the crossbar.

Kerzhakov's wastefulness continued after the restart and it seemed that it could be costly when Pilar brought the Czechs back into the game.

Jaroslav Plasil slid the ball into the frontman who rounded goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

Despite conceding, Russia continued to control the game and they would have been out of sight had it not been for their poor finishing.

There were no surprises when Roman Pavlyuchenko was called from the bench in the 73rd minute to replace Kerzhakov and it didn't take long for the former Tottenham man to make his mark.

He firstly played the role of provider by playing in Dzagoev for his second goal, before getting his own name on the scoresheet with a thunderous strike from the edge of the area.

The Russians' performance clearly marks them out as favourites to top the group and suggests that they could cause some problems for the tournament's frontrunners in the knockout stages.

Team line-ups
Russia: Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutsky, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev (Kokorin 85), Arshavin, Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 73). Subs: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Glushakov, Semshov, Pavlyuchenko, Kokorin, Pogrebniak. 

Goals: Dzagoev (15 and 79), Shirokov (24) and Pavlyuchenko (82).
Bookings: N/A 
Red cards: N/A
Czech Republic: Cech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Hubnik, Sivok, Rezek (Hubschman 46), Rosicky, Plasil, Pilar, Jiracek (Petrzela 76), Baros (Lafata 85). Subs: Lastuvka, Drobny, Suchy, Limbersky, Rajtoral, Petrzela, Hubschman, Kolar, Darida, Necid, Pekhart, Lafata. 

Goals: Pilar (52).  
Bookings: N/A 
Red cards: N/A

Referee: Howard Webb (England)

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