Thursday, June 19, 2008

Group D : Russia vs Sweden

Russia beat Sweden in Innsbruck to set up a clash with coach Guus Hiddink's native country the Netherlands in the last eight of Euro 2008.

Andrei Arshavin, playing his first game of the tournament after suspension, inspired a superb attacking display.

He was involved as Aleksandr Anyukov set up Roman Pavlyuchenko for a close-range finish after 24 minutes.

And Arshavin then started and finished a sweeping move to slide home Yuri Zhirkov's pass in the 50th minute.

Russia exerted almost total domination and also struck the woodwork through Pavlyuchenko and Konstantin Zyryanov as they threatened to rack up a more emphatic victory margin.

Euro 2008 quarter-final line-up
Thursday - Germany v Portugal
Friday - Croatia v Turkey
Saturday - Netherlands v Russia
Sunday - Spain v Italy

It was easily the most impressive Russian performance of Euro 2008 and if they reproduce this quality against the counter-attacking style of the Dutch in Basel on Saturday, it will be a mouth-watering clash.

Arshavin was recalled after a two-game ban - and he fully justified his selection by orchestrating a brilliant display of attacking pace and verve by Russia.

Pavlyuchenko almost created a goal for the Zenit St Petersburg star after 14 minutes, but Arshavin could not get a powerful touch on his cross.

And Arshavin then forced Sweden keeper Andreas Isaksson into a back-pedalling save with a cross that threatened to drift over his head as Russia pinned Sweden back.

Zhirkov then fired a volley inches wide before Pavlyuchenko gave Russia a thoroughly-deserved lead in the 24th minute.

Arshavin, predictably, was at the heart of the move with a perfectly weighted pass for Zyryanov, who switched the ball to Aynukov, who set up Pavlyuchenko for a sweeping finish beyond Isaksson.

Little had been seen of the dangerous Sweden strike pairing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson, but the former Celtic star burst into life after 26 minutes to send a superb header glancing off the bar.

Russia, however, were quick to re-assert their authority and were only denied by the woodwork after Pavlyuchenko left Isaksson helpless with a powerful finish.

Sweden at least showed some attacking intent in the dying moments of the first half, with Mikael Nilsson and Freddie Ljugnberg bringing smart saves from Igor Akinfeev.

It was another moment of mastery from Arshavin that doubled Russia's lead after 50 minutes and clinched a meeting against the Dutch in the last eight.

The little maestro played in Zhirkov and then slid the return pass beyond Isaksson as the pace of Russia's attack once again left Sweden helpless.

Sweden attempted to force their way back into the game, but were leaving themselves open to the rapier thrusts of the Russians.

And they should have been further behind when Zyryanov struck the post with a rising drive and Pavlyuchenko missed an easy chance to add a third.

Arshavin then wasted an opportunity to round off a brilliant individual display with a flourish in the 88th minute when he shot straight at Isaksson's legs when he was clean through.

Russia: Akinfeev, Aniukov, Ignashevich, Kolodin, Zhirkov, Semak, Zyryanov, Semshov, Bilyaletdinov (Saenko 66), Arshavin, Pavluchenko (Bystrov 90).
Subs Not Used: Gabulov, Malafeev, Vasili Berezutsky, Yanbaev, Alexei Berezutsky, Adamov, Torbinsky, Shirokov, Sychev, Ivanov.

Booked: Semak, Arshavin, Kolodin.

Goals: Pavluchenko 24, Arshavin 50.

Sweden: Isaksson, Stoor, Mellberg, Hansson, Nilsson (Allback 79), Elmander, Andersson (Kallstrom 55), Svensson, Ljungberg, Henrik Larsson, Ibrahimovic.
Subs Not Used: Shaaban, Wiland, Linderoth, Alexandersson, Majstorovic, Granqvist, Sebastian Larsson, Wilhelmsson, Rosenberg, Dorsin.

Booked: Isaksson, Elmander.

Att: 30,000

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).

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