Russia stun Portugal at World Cup Qualifiers

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Zenit St Petersburg forward Alexander Kerzhakov struck the decisive goal to earn Russia a hard-fought 1-0 win over Portugal and lift them to the top of 2014 World Cup qualifying Group F here on Friday.

Fabio Capello’s side, who were recording their first ever win over Portugal in the post-Soviet era, maintained their perfect record with nine points from three matches to go three points clear of Portugal.

“Today I saw exactly that team which I saw in training over the last week,” former England boss Capello said.

“My players came on to the pitch today filled with fighting spirit and gave 100 percent of what they have for this win.

“I’m really happy with my team’s performance today. And I’d like to thank our fans for their support in this tough match.”

Portugal manager Paolo Bento said he was satisfied with his team’s performance but not the result.

“I can’t say that we looked bad tonight,” Bento said.

“In general we played a good match. We reacted well on the goal we conceded and we followed the plan which we worked out before the match.

“Of course Russia played a great match but I think the result wasn’t fair as I know my team is capable of playing top quality football. We came here to win and are really upset now.”

Russia got off to a lively start, scoring when the match was just six minutes old through Kerzhakov, who beat goalkeeper Rui Patricio with an unopposed shot from the edge of the box after seeing off the guests’ defence on a breakaway.

Portugal went on the attack searching for the equaliser and made Russian keeper Igor Akinfeyev the most overworked player on the wet synthetic pitch at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.

He was forced to perform a pair of impressive saves to deny dangerous shots by Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Alves.

The visitors were dominating the play, keeping Russia under constant pressure.

But Capello’s men defended stoutly against Portugal threatening on rare but nevertheless dangerous counter-attacks.

After the interval Portugal continued testing the hosts’ defence but Russia, spurred on by the 75,000 home crowd, played without making any major mistakes, stifling the visitors’ attacks.

Though Portugal had an obvious advantage in possession and looked dominant in general they failed to create any serious threat, while the Russians’ replies looked much more dangerous.

In the 66th minute halftime substitute Denis Glushakov had a chance to increase Russia’s lead but the midfielder’s low shot from the edge of the area was confidently stopped by Patricio.

In the 82nd minute the keeper parried a dangerous shot by forward Alexander Kokorin also from the edge of the box, with Roman Shirokov’s attempt on the rebound went too wide.

In the closing stages Portugal pinned the hosts back but to no avail as they failed to create any scoring chances.

“The discipline and team spirit were the main components of our win,” the hero of the match Kerzhakov said. “We knew that it would be really hard but we played according to our plan from the first to the last minute.”

“Our players were all confident that we can resist Portugal’s attacks. And we did it. Both our team and Portugal want to get an automatic qualification for the World Cup. But today we wanted to win a little bit more. It’s a very important win for us.”

On Tuesday World Cup 2014 Qualifiers, Russia take on Azerbaijan while Portugal face Northern Ireland.

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