Group A
Russia 4-1 Czech Republic



By Alex Byrom
Deputy Football Editor from Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw



21-year old CSKA Moscow wing wizard Alan Dzagoev peels away in celebration after his scoring double in Russia's opening victory


Russia produced a stunning performance to sweep aside Czech Republic with two goals for Alan Dzagoev helping them to a 4-1 victory in the second match of Euro 2012. 

Dzagoev slammed in the opener after the wasteful Kerzakhov headed against the post, with Shirokov latching onto a defensive mistake to double the advantage. Pilar did reduce the deficit early in the second half to give the Czech's hope, but that was swallowed away by driven finishes by Dzagoev and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko. 

Russia, who reached the semi-finals four years ago, laid down a marker with some fantastic moves with the ball and dealt with most of what Czech Republic threw at them; they had so many chances it could have been a cricket score. They are now in pole position to win this group, and could repeat their 2008 feat. They were crystal: a joy to watch. 

The line-ups were as expected with Arshavin playing just off Kherzakhov, whilst Baros started up front on his own and striker Rezek was on the right wing to allow captain Thomas Rosicky to play just off the front man. The only surprise was the omission of Russia's number 1 Igor Akinfeev, who missed 3 of the last 4 months of the season through injury; he had been a doubt before the match, nevertheless, they had hoped he would be fit. 


Alan Dzagoev is the second youngest player ever to score two goals in a European Championship finals (21 years old). The youngest is Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004.

Knowing a win would take either of these two top of the group after Poland and Greece drew 1-1 earlier in the day, it was an added incentive as many predicted this as the group A winner decider. 

And the Czech Republic certainly started the brighest: They forced a corner on 3 minutes, and a bit of confusion spilt in the Russian box and the ball struck a hand, but it was certianly not a penalty. 2 minutes later, the referee blew for a very soft free kick. Russia didn't deal with it at all well; central defender Hubnik had a free header but could only glance it wide. 

It was a quiet, slow, sluggish start for the former Soviet Union, who have won this competition in 1960 and have reached 3 finals. Russia finally began to get the ball down and play. From a throw-in deep in the left territory, Zhirkov - the former Chelsea man - did a lovely one-two with Arshavin. His pull back found Kherzakhov who - under pressure - could only poke it wide. 

It was a tale of things to come. But Russia, who could only manage 17 goals in 10 qualifying matches finally took the lead and within a few minutes had a firm grip on a match they were never going to surrender. 

On the quarter-hour mark, 21 year old Alan Dzagoev, who scored 4 goals in qualifying, scored his first tournament goal - firing in a rebound. He was in the right place to fire past the stranded Cech after Kerzakhov had headed against the post from Shirikov's right wing cross. 

The Russian's were coming at the Czechs from all angles and should have doubled the lead instantly: The Czech defence was sliced apart like a knife through butter, as Kerzakhov again combined with Arshavin who played a neat ball to goal scorer Dzagoev, but the finish was lacking as he fired wide when one-on-one. 

The Czechs did relieve some pressure and had a decent chance on 22 minutes from a corner. Swung in by Pilar, it was a glancing header by Kadlec - a defender, who was the Czech Republic's leading goal scorer in qualifying - got his head to it but it was a comfortable save for Malafeev. 

But just 60 seconds later, Russia doubled their lead. After another sweeping move bypassed the midfield, Arshabin attempted to find Kerzakhov in the box. However, everyone missed it. Cech hesitiated which gave Shirokov the chance to score, which he did with a superb chip. Nobody was expecting this, but maybe it was a repeat of 2008, when Russia reached the Semi-Finals. 

The game slipped into a bit of a sombre affair as Russia knew they could score at will every time they came forward. Kerzakhov had another decent chance on 33 minutes, but, the man who only managed 2 goals in qualifying, skied his effort over after good work down the left. He was furious with himself and so he should have been. 

Half time gave the Czechs a breather and a chance to regroup, and change: inefffective Rezek was brought off and Hubschman came on to offer soemthing different and try and get the Czechs holding onto possession.   

And it worked. Czech Republic were back in the game 6 minutes into the second half. Finally managing to get a deceent spell of possession Plasil, who was the Republic's highest assist maker with 4 in qualifying, slipped in Pilar who scored his first goal since the play-offs and his second for the national team. It was a terrible mistake by Anukov, who tried to play offside, and he rounded the keeper and slotted home. 

Russia found it difficult to get going, especially now as the Czechs began to dominate possession, without really showing any threatning signs. 

Frustrated Kerzakhov was again twice off target as Russia found some fantastic chances. First Arshavin played him in and he fired wide of Cech's post and then on 69 minutes he found himself in again, and onside (an excellent decision by Mike Mullarkey the Assistant) but dragged his shot hopelessly wide. Wasteful. And he was replaced shortly afterwards by Russia's top scorer in 2008 and in Qualifying: Spurs striker Roman Pavluchenko. 



Striker Alexander Kerzakhov had seven shots tonight against the Czechs with none being on target. 


Czech Republic were still trying hard to force an equaliser and at last tested Malfeev. Rosicky who was hardly influential in and around the Russian box hit a fierce 25 yard drive which the keeper did excellently to parry with a strong right hand. He then responded to gather the loose ball before Baros could tap in the rebound. 

Yuri Zhirkov ventured into the Czech half, and another excellent combination with Arshaivin got him in behind the narrow Czech defensive line, but right back Gebre Salassie made an excellent block, anf it went behind for only Russia's 3rd corner. 

A minute later, though, and Russia finally did get their third goal. Substitute Pavlyuchenko found Dzorgaev who smahed it past Cech, who could have done better, and made him Russia's youngest scorer of a brace in a major tournament, and the second youngest in Euro history. It was his 6th goal in his last 11 games.  

But Russia weren't finished there. More superb counter-attacking football found the Tottenham man. He weaved, and probed and looked for a way inside the defender. When he did, he hit a powerful strike that beat Cech's hand and found the net to make it 4-1. 

It was the 3rd goal he scored in this Euro 2012 process, off the bench. Impact sub. 

Yet, still the Czechs ame forward, so you couldn't argue against their attitude and determination. Rosicky hit a shot stright at the keeper after more good work by sub Petrzela, and Baros was taken off for Lafata and Russia made their second change: Kokovin on for two goal hero Dzagoev, who rightly received a standing ovation. 

As the game sparkled and fizzed towards its end, Arshavin - all alone - tested Cech with a low shot, with the Chelsea keeper easily dealing with the danger. 

In stoppage time there was more drama as Czech Republic were denied a consolation to make it 4-2 by the linesman's offside flag. It was the correct decision - just - and ruined a excellent cameo sub appearence by Petrzela, who copied Pilar's goal by rounding the keeper. It was Pilar who sent the ball through too.  

As the final whistle sounded, Russia knew what a result it was: commanding, fluent and dominant. They destroyed the second best team in this group, and have Poland and Greece to come. Top spot beckons. 

ANALYSIS:  Russia 4-1 Czech Republic
Alex Byrom - Deputy Football Editor reporting in Warsaw

"What a fantastic perfomance. It was a joy to watch; some of the football, especially on the counter attack was, at times, breathtaking. Some well worked goals, taken excellently. That has laid down a marker. They shouldn't have a problem beating Poland and Greece, tough games as well. The only thing is: At times they were still opened up by the Czechs. So something to work on. They have got this group sewn up now, and they have all but 2 feet in the Quarter-Finals. If they continue to play on this form, they can definitely match - or better - their 2008 showing. They could be dark horses for the tournament."



Friday 8th June                 UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                   Group A                 Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Russia 4-1 Czech Republic                                     KO 7:45pm                 Live on ITV1/HD               (HT 2-0)    

Dzagoev 15, 79         Pilar 52
Shirokov 24                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Pavlyuchenko 82 





16. Vyacheslav Malafeev-  7/10  Watchful. Didn't put a foot wrong. Fairly comfortable saves. 

2. Alexander Anyukov-  6.5/10  Dealt with everything that came down his side, and comfortably. Made sure nothing got through. However, at fault for goal when trying to play offside rule. 

4. Sergei Ignashevich-  7/10  Kept the line well. Managed to hold off Baros and kept him quiet. Was strong in the tackle and unbeatable in the air. A strong figure in the side. 

12. Alexei Berezutky-  7/10  Like his centre defence partner dealt with Baros's threat with ease, and never missed a tackle or an interception. Good performance. 

5. Yuri Zhirkov-  7.5/10  Showed his experience up against some tough,   speedy opponents on the right hand side. Blocked, tackled and chased. Never missed an opportunity to get forward either, and   his link-up with Arshavin was key for 2 goals. 

6. Roman Skirokov-  8/10  Excellent performance. Always available, comfortable on the ball, and always had an end product. Linked up well with Arshavin and Kerzhakov. Neat finish too. 

7. Igor Denisov-  7.5/10  Engine of the midfield. Might not have been pretty, nor getting forward much but held everything together. Broke up play well and started attacks with quick passes. 

8. Konstantin Zyryanov-  8/10  A menace throughout. Whether it was down the middle, the left or the right he was always a threat and ready to get on the end of crosses or passes. Rarely wasted possession and unlucky not to score. Superb link-up. 

17. Alan Dzagoyev-  9/10 Outstanding performance. Two finishes of strikers' quality and was always in the box looking to score. Down the right was a threat by keeping wide and got himself into some decent positions. Him and Arshavin pulled the strings in midfield and the Czech's just couldn't pick him up. One to watch and definitely a danger man.

10. Andrey Arshavin (C)- 9.5/10  What a player. Cometh the hour, cometh of the game, cometh the time, what a player. He was a   wizard. He ran with the ball, he found people in space, he passed it quickly, he was unmarked, willing, determined. The perfect player to have as captain. He was that good, he got 2 assists, had a part in all 4 goals whilst beating the guy that scored two to my man of the match.

11. Alexander Kerzhakov- 8/10  Led the line really well. A constant threat, he was constantly in the right positions. He held the ball up well, he passed, he was in space, held position excellently. His only bad point was that he was very wasteful; he should have had an hat-trick minimum, as he was unlucky with the first goal that hit the post, but as long as he keeps getting himself in those positions, he will put a chance away. 


Substitutes bench:-  
1. Akinfeev, 13. Shunin. 3. Sharonov, 19. Granat, 21, Nabakin, 9. Izmailov, 15. Kombarov, 22. Glushakov, 23. Semshov, 14. Pavlyuchenko, 18. Kokorin, 20. Pogrebnyak. 


Subs used:     

Pavyluchenko (for Kerzakhov- 73 mins)-  7/10  Impact Sub. He came on and was like a lion, chasing his pray. Kept the ball, kept things moving, was positive - always going forward. And a fantastic goal: all his own work - no back lift - and left Cech no chance.  

Kokorin (for Dzagoev- 84)-  3/10  Replaced the 2 goal hero and sat in the midfield to make sure that the Czech's had nowhere to go. Not enough time to make an impact in an offensive position.


Booked:         None


Czech Republic:


1. Petr Cech- 5 Disappointing performance from the Chelsea man. Hesitated for the second goal and arguably had he been better placed, could have saved the final 2 goals. 

2. Theodor Gebre Salassie- 6.5 Full of innovation and adventure down the right. Unfortunately crossing was poor. 

6. Thomas Sivok- 6  Dragged all over the place by the excellent combination of Russia's frontmen. Didn't look like he had a good rapport with his fellow centre back.

5. Roman Hubnik- 6  Again, no organistion or communciation with fellow defenders led to 4 goals being scored. All over the place most often, but wasn't worst defender.

3. Michal Kadlec- 5.5  Left back showed how hard it is against this Russian machine. Constantly out of position, and couldn't even get a challenge in. Never got forward either. 

10. Thomas Rosicky (C)- 5.5  Captain didn't lead by example, unlike his opposite number. Game passed him by, and he tried to come short to pick up the ball and influence the game. Poor passing and left Baros isolated up front. 

13. Jaroslav Plasil- 6.5  Lively and full of running. Was overrun in midfield. Passing was sometimes wayward. Final ball let him down, although that down to lack of support. Wonderful pass for goal. 

14. Vaclav Pilar- 6  Nice simple passes, but gave the ball awsay frequently as well. Couldn't influence the attack, and left the defence exposed. 

19. Petr Jiracek- 7  Excellent running. He was the only one to run at his defender, and when he was successful found a cross. However, there just wasn't enough players in the box. Found himself drigting infield more after Half Time. Subbed. 

9. Jan Rezek- 4.5  COffered nothing going forward, as he was playing right wing. The defence dealt easily with everything he did. Strugdled to get in the game, and was withdrawn at the break.

7. Milan Baros- 5  Isolated up front. Not his best game. Struggled to get into the game, and was too often easily knocked off the ball. Didn't do anything different: no running into the channels; no holding the ball up. Very poor performance. 

Substitutes bench:-  
16. Lastuvka, 23. Drobny, 4. Sucjy, 8. Limbersky, 12. Rajtoral, 11. Petrzela, 17. Hubschman 18. Kolar, 22. Darida, 07. Necid, 20. Pekhart, 21. Lafata. 


Subs used:     

Hubschman (for Rezek 46)- 6  Added more steal to the midfield. Passing still was astray and was too deep.

Petrzela (for Jiracek 75)- 6.5  CGood performance. Offered something different down the right and actually when he ran at the defence - he caused Zhirkov some problems. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite find the killer pass. Had a goal ruled out for offside late on. 

Lafata (for Baros 85)- 2  Completely overrun. Didn't get near the ball. Looks lightweight and easily bullied. Was never going to rescue a lost cause. 


Booked:         None

Sent-off:         None

My Man of the Match:    Andrey Arshavin (Russia)- Rating 9.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Jan Rezek (Czech Republic)- Rating 4.5/10

Referee: Howard Webb (England)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 37,348



Match Facts:

Possession:  Russia- 58%               
Czech Republic- 48%

Shots at goal: Russia- 17               Czech Republic- 13

Shots on target: Russia- 7               Czech Republic- 7

Shots off target: Russia- 10               Czech Republic- 6

Corners: Russia- 3               Czech Republic- 5

Fouls: Russia- 11               Czech Republic- 14

Offsides: Russia- 1               Czech Republic- 3

Assists: Russia- Arshavin (2), Pavlyuchenko & Kerzakhov             Czech Republic- Plasil




Russia head coach Dick Advocaat:  "We are very happy about the game When you score 4 against the Czechs, it is a very good result We should have scored more as we created a lot of chances. At 2-1 we made it very difficult for ourselves so we have to get better at that, because better teams will punish us. It could have been 2-2, so there are moments when we need to be sharper."

Czech Republic head coach Michal Bilek:  "We had problems with Russia's combinations, and that is why they had so many chances. We are very disappointed by the result, but we can still win 2 games." 


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