Saturday 24 March 2018

Semshov strike enough to give Russians narrow victory

Igor Semshov scored a first-half winner to lead Russia to victory over Macedonia in Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifying group.

Andrey Arshavin began Russia's attack down the left flank in the 41st minute, passing to Roman Shirokov, who fed Semshov in the middle of the box. Semshov's low shot slightly ricocheted off the outstretched leg of defender Martin Bogationov, which guided the ball into the back of the net.

The result puts Russia top of Group B, with 16 points after seven games.

"I'm very happy with the result. It was a difficult match, especially the first half," Russia coach Dick Advocaat said. "We had enough chances to have two or three goals."

Macedonia opened strongly and constantly threatened Russia with shots from outside the box.

"It was a tough game. We expected a difficult match," said new Macedonia coach John Toshack, who replaced Mirsad Jonuz last month.

Vyacheslav Malafeev, who will replace Russia's injured first-choice goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev for the rest of the qualifying, blocked shots from Ivan Trickovski early in the match.

Russia had plenty of possession in the first half but lacked a cutting edge until Semshov's goal. Semshov was replaced by Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko in the second half and Russia was more comfortable.

Alexander Kerzhakov, Arshavin and Dmitry Tornbinsky missed chances to make the win more comfortable.

Goran Popov came close to equalising for the visitors in injury-time, but Malafeev blocked his shot from just inside the box.

Macedonia have four points from seven games. Russia will face Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland next on Tuesday.

In the remaining Group B game, Armenia beat Andorra 3-0.

Irish Independent

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