SKOPJE, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Two first-half goals powered
Russia to a 2-0 win over Macedonia in a Euro 2008 qualifier on
Wednesday and revived their hopes of reaching the finals from
Vladimir Bystrov opened the scoring in the 18th minute,
driving the ball into the roof of the net after a Diniyar
Bilyaletdinov cross from the left. Andrei Arshavin made it 2-0
with a great solo effort 15 minutes later.
The game was briefly interrupted when Macedonian riot police
clashed with Russian fans in the stands following Arshavin's
goal. Some 300 Russians travelled to Skopje for the match.
Arshavin could have added a third midway through the second
half but waited too long to shoot.
Macedonia, missing suspended strikers Goran Pandev and Ilco
Naumoski, who both scored in a 3-0 victory over Andorra last
month, rarely threatened Russia keeper Igor Akinfeyev.
Goran Maznov had the best chance for the home side, just
going wide with a powerful header following a fine cross by
Robert Petrov shortly after the interval.
The Russians, however, comfortably held on for victory to
remain unbeaten under their Dutch coach Guus Hiddink.
'It was by far our best performance since I became Russia
coach,' the Dutchman, who was appointed to the job after guiding
Australia at this year's World Cup finals, told reporters.
'We knew Macedonia would be tough to beat but in the first
half we were attacking well while in the second half it was our
defence who played well.'
The win put them temporarily at the top of Group E with
eight points from four matches while Macedonia, who also held
England to a 0-0 draw in Manchester last month, dropped to fifth
place with seven points after five games.