Russia's first away game in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying Group E proved a successful one as Guus Hiddink's side made light work of F.Y.R. Macedonia in Skopje.
First-half goals from Vladimir Bystrov and Andrei Arshavin sealed the victory as Russia climbed the table, only to be usurped by Croatia following their 4-3 victory in Israel. The visitors carved out the first chance after ten minutes when Arshavin squared the ball to Yegor Titov, only for his captain to delay his shot and allow F.Y.R. Macedonia defender Goce Sedloski to block. Russia made no mistake eight minutes later as a poor defensive header from Igor Mitreski presented the ball to FC Spartak Moskva midfielder Bystrov who controlled on his chest before volleying high into the net from eight metres.
Russia worked a significant advantage in the 32nd minute when Arshavin collected a pass from the impressive Diniyar Bilyaletdinov on the edge of the box, skipped a challenge from Mitreski and calmly lifted the ball over Jane Nikoloski. The frustrations of the home fans were understandable, with their team making little impact and any attacks being quickly soaked up by a solid Russia back line. The best F.Y.R. Macedonia could muster was a 34th-minute header from striker Goran Maznov which fell into the arms of visiting keeper Igor Akinfeev.
On the rise
The hosts did improve after the break, and went close to reducing arrears in the 55th minute as Maznov flicked a header just wide from a Robert Petrov cross. Russia remained dangerous on the break, and Arshavin had an effort deflected to safety by Nikoloski before Titov shot over when he should have found the target from a Dmitri Sychev cut-back. Still, Russia had done enough to climb above their opponents, Israel and England.