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Russia ended the Czech Republic's four-year unbeaten run in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying with a 2-0 win in the first leg of their play-off tie.
A goal in each half from Fedor Smolov condemned the hosts to their first qualifying defeat since September 2008. The FC Anji Makhachkala player's second of the match – and sixth of the qualifying campaign – came ten minutes after Václav Kadlec had squandered the chance to level, the forward's penalty just after the hour being kept out by the legs of Nikolai Zabolotni.
Cautious defensive play dominated the opening stages, but Russia reaped the rewards of their patience after 33 minutes. Oleg Shatov got possession in midfield and precisely played through Smolov, who fired a low shot into the bottom-right corner beyond Tomáš Koubek.
The Czechs attacked a little more after the break, but received no change from an organised Russia defence. The visitors had more luck, however, Denis Cheryshev and Smolov both threatening down the flanks, the latter forcing Koubek into a 57th-minute save with a low effort from close range.
Seven minutes later the Czech Republic gained the opportunity to level when Stanislav Tecl was fouled in the penalty area by Ibragim Tsallagov, but Kadlec's central effort was blocked by the legs of Zabolotni. Undeterred, the hosts pressed forward, carving out opportunities for Ondřej Vaněk and Tomáš Wágner.
Neither could convert, though, and in the 74th minute Smolov punished them with his second, from the spot, after Milan Nitrianský had fouled Pavel Yakovlev. Substitute Shota Bibilov could have put the tie beyond the Czechs, but was denied by a post and the crossbar in the closing stages. The second leg takes place in Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.
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