Russia stepped up preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a narrow 1-0 victory against Slovakia.
Though the hosts can draw on the positives of winning and keeping a clean sheet in Saint Petersburg, it was not all plain sailing for Fabio Capello's side. The Italian fielded his strongest starting XI – shorn of only the injured Roman Shirokov – but they had to wait until eight minutes from time before Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored the breakthrough.
Indeed, it was Slovakia who started the brighter of the two teams, creating a handful of early half-chances. Russia began to find their feet, with Alan Dzagoev calling visiting goalkeeper Ján Mucha into action after 20 minutes. Russia were soon dominating possession but were not creating the opportunities to match.
Capello made a number of changes as the match wore on and was finally rewarded when second-half substitute Kerzhakov, of FC Zenit, headed in Maksim Kanunnikov's cross from the left. Pavel Mogilevets, 21, then came on to win his first cap. Next up for Russia is a friendly against Norway, in Oslo, on 31 May. Capello's charges will face Algeria, Belgium and Korea Republic in World Cup Group H.