Russia made a good start to their UEFA European Under-17 Championship title defence as they progressed from qualifying round Group 10 in Volgograd with a game to spare, though they conceded top spot to Iceland.
Only twice have Russia previously qualified – in 2006 and 2013 – taking the title both times. With none of the squad that triumphed in May, Russia beat last season's finals hosts Slovakia and Azerbaijan to make sure of an elite round slot, though Iceland then defeated the holders 2-1 to go through as group winners.
Iceland had begun the group with an exciting 3-3 draw against Azerbaijan, equalising on three occasions including through Ernir Bjarnason with eight minutes left. Russia overcame Slovakia 2-1, Maksimilian Pronichev's opener being cancelled out by Nikolas Špalek with four minutes to go, only for Sergei Evtushenko to strike deep in added time.
Slovakia's hopes of a top-two finish were then crushed by a 4-2 loss to Iceland, despite the Slovaks leading at half-time. Substitute Ragnar Mar Larusson came on after 52 minutes and scored twice, either side of an Albert Gudmundsson goal. That meant Russia's 1-0 win against Azerbaijan was enough to take them through to the 28 November elite round draw, Nikolai Obolski's sixth-minute strike decisive.
Still Iceland needed a point against Russia today and Gudmundsson's 50th-minute effort gave them a 2-1 advantage they never relinquished against opponents who had Evtushenko and Oleg Krasilnichenko sent off in added time for second bookable offences. Slovakia downed ten-man Azerbaijan 4-2 but, to advance in the competition, they must end as the third-placed team with the best record against the top two across the 13 groups.
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