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Oct 12, 2012

Russia scores early to beat Portugal

MOSCOW -- Alexander Kerzhakov scored early in the first half to give Russia a 1-0 win over Portugal in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup on Friday.

The Zenit St. Petersburg striker scored with a low shot past diving goalkeeper Rui Patricio six minutes into the game from a Roman Shirokov cross.

It was Russia's only shot on goal in the first half. Portugal dominated possession for the rest of the match but failed to score.

Portugal had its first chance to equalize in the 15th minute but goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev blocked Bruno Alves' header from a corner kick.

Portugal was then forced into an early substitution when Miguel Lopes came on for the injured Fabio Coentrao.

The visitors' star forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had overcome a shoulder injury to play in the game, never came close in the first half though Nani constantly threatened the Russian defense on the right flank.

The Manchester United midfielder had his first attempt on goal in the 28th but shot over the bar.

Three minutes later Helder Postiga fired from inside the box but his shot was also too high.

Russia could have doubled the lead on a counterattack but Kerzhakov's cross from the right sailed over the far corner of the net in the 33rd.

Nani and Postiga each had a chance later but Akinfeev blocked their shots.

Ronaldo also fired a free kick right into Akinfeev hands at the end of the first half.

Portugal continued its domination after the break and Ronaldo missed his best chance in the 58th when he was too slow to connect with Nani's cross inside the box allowing defender Sergei Ignashevich to intercept.

"Maybe we weren't as calm as we usually are," Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. "Everyone can make mistakes, even the coach can make mistakes. We lost the ball a lot of times."

With time winding down, Alexander Kokorin broke free but his shot was parried by Patricio. Shirokov was the first to the rebound but his shot went wide.

"It was a tough match, but today I've seen that team on the pitch which I saw at practice all this week," Russia coach Fabio Capello said. "The players played with huge desire and commitment."

With the victory, Capello continued his 100 percent record in competitive matches as Russia's new coach.

Russia scored nine goals and Akinfeev has not conceded in the three matches since the Italian manager took over.

The victory put Russia on top of the Group F standings with nine points from three games. Portugal is second with six points.

Russia next hosts Azerbaijan while Portugal will be at home against Northern Ireland on Tuesday. Israel and Luxemburg are also in the group.

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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