Russia took a major step towards qualifying for UEFA Women's EURO 2013 courtesy of first-half goals from Valentina Savchenkova and Natalia Shlyapina in Austria.
Sergei Lavrentyev's side adopted a counterattacking approach in St Polten and it paid dividends, with Savchenkova putting the visitors in front after 26 minutes and Shlyapina following suit close to half-time. With Austria unable to respond, they now face a major challenge if they are to avoid disappointment in Thursday's second leg in Rostov-na-Donu.
Despite the result, it was Austria who dominated the early stages as forwards Nina Burger and Laura Feiersinger made busy starts. They were also able to thwart their opponents thanks to some precise marking in midfield and defence. That left Russia looking for chances on the break, and the visitors seized their opportunity when Elena Terekhova took possession on the right wing and sent in a well-timed cross to Savchenkova, who took one touch to steer the ball past Anna-Carina Kristler from the edge of the box.
The home side immediately set about chasing an equaliser and, with 37 minutes gone, Viktoria Schnaderbeck fired narrowly over with a half-volley from a Feiersinger corner. They soon found themselves two goals down, however, Savchenkova releasing Shlyapina with a through ball and the six-goal scorer in the group stage finishing calmly with a right-footed shot between the goalkeeper's legs.
After the break, Austria continued trying to break down Russia's well-organised defence with admirable intent. Schnaderbeck had an effort blocked close to the hour mark and substitute Lisa Makas forced a good save from Elvira Todua with a strike from 22 metres out that was heading for the top right-hand corner.
Russia still posed a threat on the counter, but Dominik Thalhammer's charges were able to prevent further damage and nearly reduced the deficit when Schnaderbeck's volley from Verena Aschauer's cross flew narrowly wide. Todua then did well to deny Aschauer and Feiersinger in quick succession with six minutes remaining, as Russia held out to take a firm grip on the tie.