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Sweden success throws Russia a lifeline

Russia 1-0 Sweden
Artem Dzyuba's first-half strike helped the hosts back into Group G contention as Leonid Slutski enjoyed a winning start at the Russia helm.

2015 highlights: Russia 1-0 Sweden
  • Artem Dzyuba makes difference with his third goal in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying
  • Leonid Slutski celebrates winning start in his first outing as Russia coach
  • Hosts move within a point of second-placed Sweden in Group G
  • Zlatan Ibrahimović withdrawn at half-time with suspected injury
  • Next games: Liechtenstein v Russia, Sweden v Austria (8 September)

Artem Dzyuba struck the only goal as Russia made a winning start under new coach Leonid Slutski, edging qualifying Group G rivals Sweden to boost their hopes of an automatic place at UEFA EURO 2016.

A capacity crowd at the Otkrytie Arena came hoping to see improvements from the home side in their first match since Fabio Capello departed in July, and they were not disappointed.

Needing victory to maintain their chances of a top-two finish, Russia triumphed courtesy of a well-worked effort on 38 minutes, Zenit forward Dzyuba getting the final touch.

Recalled into the starting lineup by Slutski, Dzyuba proved a handful right from the start with some fine link-up play. His team-mates proved unable to provide the necessary finish, yet it was a different story when the 27-year-old found himself on the end of a move as half-time approached.

Igor Smolnikov and Roman Shirokov combined brilliantly down the right, and Smolnikov slotted a pass across to his Zenit colleague to beat Andreas Isaksson via a post.

Zlatan Ibrahimović shows his frustration
Zlatan Ibrahimović shows his frustration©AFP/Getty Images

Sweden coach Erik Hamrén sprung a surprise at the break when he took off Zlatan Ibrahimović, who looked to be carrying a slight injury, and that left Ola Toivonen in charge of leading the Blågult line.

The 29-year-old had found the net when these teams drew 1-1 in Solna last October, though it was Emil Forsberg who enjoyed Sweden's first real chance. Stinging the palms of Igor Akinfeev with a fierce drive, Forsberg could only hit the side netting from the rebound.

The visitors continued pressing for an equaliser as Russia began to tire, but Slutski's side – backed by a vociferous crowd – managed to hold on for a hard-fought win and move to within a point of the Swedes, who remain second.

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