England's arrival in Moscow was greeted with incredulity by the Russian press, who felt the regal pretensions of Joleon Lescott and co to be a little bit overblown.
Apparently the England squad's security men wouldn't allow any photographs to be taken in the run-up to the game, either at the hotel or the airport. 'Footballers guarded like the Queen of England', read the headline in Sport Express Daily.
The build up to the game in the Russian press was unfortunately dominated by reports of clashes between fans in Moscow. Kommersant was in triumphant mood on Thursday, and not just because of the result on the pitch.
'English fans suffer multiple defeats' read the headline, with a sub-heading proclaiming 'Moscow meets English fans with a clenched fist'.
The story was accompanied by a picture of an England fan in a beligerent pose holding up an England scarf, captioned 'Before English fans arrived in Moscow, they were considered to be the most aggressive in the world.' Evidently this reputation did not survive the week in Russia.
'At the main department of Internal Affairs (GUVD) in Moscow they believe that English fans were themselves to blame for the attacks because 'they behaved aggressively, went to the pubs and clubs and provoked locals into fighting,' according to GUVD press officer Yevgeny Gildeev,' continued the Kommersant story. 'At the British Embassy a spokesman said they hoped the matter would be investigated fairly.'
'On the night of the 16th and during the afternoon of the 17th, more than 10 England fans were attacked. The scenario was always the same – drunken fans were attacked and beaten cruelly when leaving pubs, clubs and entertainment places. Our source at the GUVD thought that there were probably more attacks but that they went unreported.'
Kommersant had information that suggests the attacks could have been part of a wider pattern.'According to our GUVD source, about ten teenagers dressed in black surrounded and ferociously beat 3 England fans on leaving a bar. They beat the England fans for about one minute and then the unknown teenagers disappeared into the side streets.'
These unknown youths weren't football fans either, according to the Kommersant man at the Luzhniki.
'Ivan Katanayev, the leader of Spartak fans group Fratria, denied that his group could have had anything to do with the attacks. 'In the morning we were at the Luzhniki preparing for the match, so we don't know anything about who might have attacked the England fans,' he said.'
Lenta.ru had given an interesting view of how the Special Police Force (OMON) were prepared to deal with the England fans. 'Some OMON policemen received special training on tactics and behaviour, and in strictly following the law when dealing with foreign citizens.' It was unclear why this training might be necessary, or how OMON units treat Russian citizen..
Andrey Melnikov at Lenta.ru said that the match at the Luzhniki Stadium was the most important sporting event in Russia this year 'even before it kicked off'.
Melnikov continued with a stirring description of the singing of the Russian national anthem. 'During the singing of the anthem, fans unfurled a banner of unprecedented size with the words 'Forward Russia!' and the image of a bear,' he recounted. 'The bear's snarl was nowhere near as cute as the bear on the logo of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Organisers of the banner said that the flag was 130 metres by 180 metres, but were silent about the cost in the face of curious questioners.'
'More surprising than the banner was the sight of Guus Hiddink carefully trying to sing the anthem along with the fans. Although his performance was not perfect, it was definitely better than some of the players.'
The importance of the game was a recurring theme in the reports, with Melnikov emphasising the priorities of Russian news media.
'On the TV news programme Vremja news about the victory came a couple of minutes after the game ended, before news on a prison riot and the marital problems of Nikolas Sarkozy. The Russian national team have not had such a significant victory for a very long time. The last time they outplayed such a top-level team was in the Qualification for Euro 2000.'
Pravda said that 'at the sold out Luzhniki stadium the Russian team secured a powerful 2-1 victory over England. The hero of the game was Roman Pvlyuchenko, who scored both goals to give Russia a much improved chance of qualifying for Euro 2008.'
Pavlyuchenko told Soviet Sport newspaper that he denied the 'hero' charge and wasn't counting any chickens.
'Me, a hero? What are you talking about! It's not my personal victory, I just scored two goals and did my job well. And in general it's still too early to celebrate our ticket to the Euros – we still have to go to Israel and it's going to be twice as tough there.'
Newsinfo.ru flattered England with some of their descriptions of the defeated team's credentials. Guus Hiddink's tactical analysis after the game made him look more like a 'creator of soccer' than the England team, but that didn't stop the hyperbole.
'On Wednesday the Russian team gave a true celebration for all of the fans. Guus Hiddink's team got their revenge for the defeat at Wembley in the qualifying for Euro 2008. The victory over the creators of soccer was secured in front of 80,000 people at the Luzhniki and countless millions glued to their TV sets.'
As Kommersant pointed out, Russia is hungry for success, so it's unsurprising that their journalists were happy to milk this victory. Newsinfo.ru explains why: 'It has been a while since we were enjoying the victory of our footballers. The last time was on the 18th of May 2005 in Lisbon when CSKA became the first club to win a European trophy for Russia. However, a club and the national team are different things. Not everyone supports CSKA, but every reasonable person is supporting the national team of his or her country.'
England neither made friends nor influenced people in Moscow this week, and Newsinfo.ru< wasn't slow to give them the 'sore losers' tag.
'Steve Maclaren appeared at the press conference and refused to speak to Russian journalists. He told his fellow countryman that if there had been no unfairly awarded penalty, the victory would have been theirs. Normally losers look for justifications in bad refereeing.'
• *Research by Olga Dragileva
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Me, a hero? What are you talking about! It's not my personal victory, I just scored two goals and did my job well.
||— Roman Pvlyuchenko