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Kerzhakov and Akinfeev give Russia victory

FYROM 0-1 Russia
Aleksandr Kerzhakov's early goal and Igor Akinfeev's penalty save ensured Russia top spot in Group B.

Russia celebrate Aleksandr Kerzhakov's early goal in Skopje
Russia celebrate Aleksandr Kerzhakov's early goal in Skopje ©Getty Images

Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored the only goal in Skopje as Russia moved to the top of UEFA EURO 2012 Group B with a 1-0 win against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Aleksandr Anyukov played his FC Zenit St. Petersburg team-mate in with a ball from the right after eight minutes, and Kerzhakov did the rest, holding off a defender to deliver a brilliant angled shot past Edin Nuredinovski in the FYROM goal. However, Russia had Igor Akinfeev to thank for their third away victory in the section as he saved a second-half penalty.

Kerzhakov's early goal got Dick Advocaat's visitors off to a great start, and the game might have been all over by the 25th minute, but Alan Dzagoev sent his shot wide from a good position. Mirsad Jonuz's side were in mean mood in defence, and – barring a Konstantin Zyryanov shot that went straight to Nuredinovski – gave Russia few other chances.

With the game played at a slow tempo on a heavy pitch, Russia's creative midfield play seemed subdued, and FYROM ground out more opportunities after the break. Filip Despotovski and substitute Stevica Ristic both failed to connect with a teasing Ivan Trickovski cross after 58 minutes, and Ristic then hit the crossbar following a corner.

The home side's big chance arrived with a penalty awarded in the 72nd minute for Sergei Ignashevich's challenge on Ilco Naumoski, but Akinfeev dived low to his left to deny the wronged player from the spot. Suitably chastened, Russia raised their game and penned FYROM back in the latter stages. Nuredinovski came up for a late corner, but his side's opportunity had already passed.