Russia passed the first test in a crucial week of their Euro 2012 qualifying
campaign as they edged out FYR Macedonia in Moscow.
While the performance was perhaps less than convincing, the result is all that
will matter as Russia hope to emerge from this latest round of fixtures top of
Igor Semshov's 41st-minute strike was enough to win this one and they will now
turn their attention to the visit of fellow challengers, the Republic of
Ireland, on Tuesday.
Russia are likely to need a better performance against a stronger team as they
afforded Macedonia too many chances tonight.
The visitors began strongly with Ivan Trickovski having three shots on goal
inside the opening 10 minutes.
Yury Zhirkov, Andrey Arshavin and Semshov all missed the target as Russia
sought to respond, but they could not prevent Macedonia having further chances
with Agim Ibraimi finding the hands of Viacheslav Malafeev in the Russia goal
before Mirko Ivanovski blazed over.
Ibraimi sent another chance wide before Semshov settled Russian nerves with a
neat finish from Arshavin's assist.
Goran Pandev missed the final chance of the half for the visitors, but they
continued to worry Russia after the break with Malafeev parrying Ibraimi's
Russia could not find the second that might have killed them off with Alexander
Kerzhakov and Roman Pavlyuchenko both going close before Dmitri Torbinsky forced
Martin Bogatinov into a good save with a header.
Goran Popov and Pandev missed opportunities for the visitors in the final
stages, with the best being Popov's powerful drive from 25 yards which Malafeev
had to tip around the post in stoppage time.