Azerbaijan 1-1 Russia: Hosts Hold Complacent Russians To Draw
Goals from Vagif Yavadov and Andrey Arshavin saw Azerbaijan and Russia play out a 1-1 draw at the Tofig Bakhramov Stadium.
It was the away side who started the better of the two teams. With no pressure at all on the Russians, they looked to be in good form as Andrey Arshavin laid off some sparkling early touches. Alan Dzagoev, who has broken into the side after some consistent performances for CSKA Moscow, also looked good but could not make the most of an early chance that was presented to him.
It was Arsenal’s Arshavin who put away Russia’s first goal of the match in the 13th minute. Some poor defending from the Azerbaijan back line gave him all of the time and space he needed and the finish was never in any doubt.
It was exactly what the away team deserved as they dominated the first 15 minutes of the game and looked to eradicate the memory of the bitter defeat at the hands of Group 4 leaders, Germany at the weekend.
It was an early blow that Azerbaijan couldn’t seem to overcome. Vagif Yavadov found himself in some rare space just before the 30 minute mark but the experience of Aleksei Berezutskiy at the back was never troubled.
Dzagoev again went close with a long range shot as Russia threatened to extend their lead, having taken full control of the game. Azerbaijan rallied around the 40 minute mark but Samir Abasov was no match for the defensive stability of Sergei Ignashevich.
Sergei Semak also appeared to be in brilliant form for Russia as he floated in front of the back four, filling in any position that was left exposed and never playing a pass more than ten yards. A bit more luck just before the break and he would have played a perfectly precise pass in behind for Arshavin to run onto and double the scoreline.
The second half started in much the same way as the first but Berti Vogts seemed physically animated as he encouraged his team to press and get further up the pitch to stop the Russian tidal waves. Valadmir Bystrov and Renat Yanbaev combined well on the right wing just after the break and the ball nearly fell to any of two Russian players waiting in the box before being scrambled clear.
The introduction of Azerbaijan’s Vugar Nadyrov seemed to lift the energy of the home side and they managed to snatch a goal in the 54th minute to draw level. Yavadov did well to steer in and lay the first 53 minutes of the game to rest. The goal was met by an animated Guus Hiddink in the Russian dugout who was clearly annoyed by the complacency of his side.
Sergey Semak was promptly booked for a poor challenge just two minutes later as the goal appeared to rock Russia. Yavadov could have had his second goal just after the hour mark but his shot was easily saved by Igor Akinfeev, who up until this point had not found himself with much to do.
Hiddink made an attacking tactical double substitution in the 65th minute by throwing on Igor Denisov and Aleksandr Bukharov as Russia looked to respond and push on for the winner. For all of the pressure that Russia had up to this point, the 1-1 scoreline was not really what they deserved.
Arshavin, who had been fairly anonymous during the second half, went close in the 74th minute but curled his shot just past the post as a helpless Kamran Agaev looked on.
Russia were playing around a lot of nice passes but the penetration they an show effectively at times had gone missing. Both sides exchanged some tentative blows towards the end of the match but neither was able to find that winning goal and the position of the teams in Group 4 did not improve.