Russia kept themselves in a strong position in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 1 ahead of next month's decisive fixtures with Romania after two Artem Dzyuba goals secured victory against Latvia.
Dzyuba opened the scoring on 18 minutes and restored the lead midway through the second half after Daniils Turkovs had equalised from the spot. Russia are ahead of Romania on goal difference with two games remaining and the leading pair will contest first place when they meet in Botosani on 3 September and four days later here in St Petersburg.
Dominant from the off, Russia had an early attempt blocked when Latvia goalkeeper Kaspars Ikstens advanced to deny Evgeni Balyaykin but ten minutes later the deadlock was broken. Aleksandr Sapeta beat Jevgēņijs Kazura and shot against the post only for Dzyuba to turn in the rebound. Later in the half Russia debutant Viktor Vasin's long ball found Balyaykin, whose overhead kick went just above the bar.
Latvia levelled on 55 minutes when Aleksandr Denisov fouled Turkovs in the box. Turkovs himself beat Sergei Pesyakov from the spot but in the 65th minute Andrei Ivanov crossed from the Russian left and Dzyuba turned the ball in with his second touch. The FC Tom Tomsk striker came close to a hat-trick late on.
We missed loads of chances today," Russia coach Igor Kolyvanov said. "When you fail to convert chances there is always a chance you could be punished. Latvia did not create anything in the first half, however they managed to equalise after the break because of our mistake at the back. Then we had five to seven minutes of panic, although Artem Dzyuba scored his second goal at a very good time for us."