By Margus Luik
Russia have cut the gap on Group 3 leaders Portugal after a convincing away victory against Estonia in Kuressaare, with FC Lokomotiv Moskva's Diniyar Bilyaletdinov starting and finishing the scoring for the visitors.
Following the leaders
The win keeps the pressure on leaders Portugal. While the unbeaten Portuguese have 15 points from five games, second-placed Russia now have 12 points from the same number of matches.
The hosts started on the attack and had several promising early openings, but the first goal stemmed from a Russian counterattack as Bilyaletdinov broke the deadlock. From then onwards there was only one team in it, and Aleksandr Pavlenko and Ivan Sayenko soon added goals for the rampant visitors.
The second half continued likewise. Aleksandr Samedov scored Russia's fourth just after the break, then Bilyaletdinov registered his second on the hour. However, the hosts staged a brave recovery and, in the 78th minute, Konstantin Vassiljev pulled a goal back. On 86 minutes Estonia won a penalty, but Vladimir Voskoboinikov's effort was saved by Vladimir Gabulov.
The Russians are next in action on 4 June at home against Latvia, the day after Portugal entertain Slovakia. As well as being merely three points behind the Portuguese, Russia are also three ahead of Slovakia with the top two going through to November's play-offs.