Tuesday 16 January 2018

Russia eager to finish job quickly

Cathal Dervan

Roman Pavlyuchenko is adamant that Russia won't prolong the agony for their supporters -- or Ireland -- any longer than they have to in Moscow tomorrow night.

The Spurs striker and his side are just one point away from automatic qualification for the European Championship finals in neighbouring Poland and the Ukraine next summer.

Thanks to Friday night's 1-0 win in Slovakia, only a shock Andorran victory in Russia can deny Dick Advocaat's side top place in Group B after the last series of games.

But the Russians have a World Cup scar still raw enough to remind them not to take anything for granted when it comes to tournament qualification.

Two years ago next month they were 2-1 up and favourites to qualify for South Africa going into the second leg of their play-off against Slovenia in Maribor.

Some of the players were so confident of victory and qualification that sections of the Russian media printed stories that they were drinking and smoking from hookah pipes before the game was even played.


Russia lost 1-0 that night in Slovenia and went out on the away goals rule. Some of their players ended up in the libel courts fighting to clear their names when they should have been at the World Cup finals.

All of which helps to explain why Pavlyuchenko is determined to put Andorra out of sight and Euro 2012 within his grasp as quickly as possible tomorrow night.

"We know that a draw is enough but I have never, ever played for a draw in any match," said Pavlyuchenko as the Russians prepare for the biggest game of Advocaat's reign.

"The only way to get what you want in football is to win and that is exactly what we are going to do against Andorra. We got a good three points in Slovakia but the important thing now is to get three more.

"I want to do that as early as possible in the last game. We need to score early and show that we mean business.

"We know from the past what can happen in a football match so we will take no chances this time. The approach in Moscow will be the same as it was it Zilina -- we want to win the game.

"We have one more step to take and that is to win against Andorra. Then we can celebrate. It is not over yet but we know what we have to do and we are determined to do it."

Pavlyuchenko has also revealed his fear that the behaviour of some Russian fans could have cost his team dearly in Zilina on Friday.

A Champions League match in the same stadium involving Aiden McGeady's Spartak Moscow was stopped for over half an hour in December 2010.

The referee took the players back to the dressing-room when Spartak fans threw flares and smoke bombs onto the pitch in protest at the death of a supporter shot in Russia.

The match, which McGeady and Spartak won, was eventually resumed but Russian players feared a repeat on Friday night when a section of their crowd ripped up seats in the MKS Stadium.

"It was a concern for us because it happened on more than one occasion. We were afraid the game would be delayed or even called off when the referee was told about it," admitted Pavlyuchenko.

The Tottenham striker also claimed his disallowed 'goal' against Slovakia was onside. "My friends texted me after the match to say the goal was good. I will have to make sure everything is right when I look to score against Andorra," he said.

Irish Independent

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