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Iran 1-0 Russia
Mohammad Khalatbari's late strike in Abu Dhabi condemned Russia to a narrow friendly defeat in their opening game of 2011.
The eventual outcome may suggest otherwise but Dick Advocaat's side had taken the initiative from the start. Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Igor Denisov set a high tempo in attack and both went close to giving Russia the early advantage. Another FC Zenit St Petersburg player, Konstantin Zyryanov, was also denied, with Vladimir Bystrov failing to convert the rebound.
On a rare foray forward 34 minutes in, Iran mustered their most presentable attempt of the half, Ehsan Hajsafi firing wide from a promising free-kick. Having watched his side dominate without mustering a final touch, Advocaat introduced Aleksandr Anyukov, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Mamaev and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov for the second half.
The European side may have been adopting the more attacking approach, but Iran – through Arash Afshin and Hadi Norouzi – started to find their feet in the final third. Their resilience paid dividends in the 90th minute when Khalatbari finished with a powerful shot after an enterprising run. He was dismissed in the ensuing celebrations.
Russia are top of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group B after picking up nine points from their opening four fixtures ahead of the resumption of their campaign in Armenia on 26 March.
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