By Eduard Nisenboim
Having seen Portugal move six points clear in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 3 last night, Russia could only reduce that to five today and needed a late equaliser to avoid defeat against Latvia.
With usual Russian goalkeeper Vladimir Gaboulov sidelined due to a shoulder injury, FC Tom Tomsk's Sergei Losev came in for his debut. In a level opening Latvia, who knew victory would take them up to third place, had the first chance when Aleksejs Visnakovs raced through the Russian defence and unleashed a dangerous shot
Russia were restricted to efforts from distance, and just after the half-hour fell behind. Rouslan Nakhoushev brought down Kristaps Blanks in the vicinity of the home area and Igors Semjonovs's cross was turned in by Intars Kirhner.
Now Russia poured forward, but Latvia's defending was immaculate save for a ten-minute period in the second half when Nikita Bazhenov and Igor Lebedenko both went close. However, with only eleven minutes remaining Rinat Sabitov's long shot struck the crossbar and Aleksandr Samedov was first to the rebound to equalise. These teams meet again in their next match on 17 August.