Russia 4-1 Czech Republic
Alan Dzagoev struck twice as Russia made a dream start to the campaign, defeating the Czech Republic to take an early lead in Group A.
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Alan Dzagoev scored twice as Russia swept to a convincing victory over the Czech Republic in Wroclaw and leave his nation atop Group A after the opening games in the section.
Dick Advocaat had reiterated his belief that Russia are contenders to win the tournament in his pre-match press conference. With the way his team performed in their opening game in brushing aside the Czech Republic 4-1, the Dutchman will not have changed his mind.
After Dzagoev had opened the scoring on the quarter-hour, Roman Shirokov struck nine minutes later to give Russia a healthy lead at the break. Václav Pilař's goal early in the second half gave the Czechs hope, but Dzagoev and Roman Pavlyuchenko scored within three minutes of each other as their opponents crumbled in the closing stages. The gloss those goals gave the scoreline was not merely a flattering one.
Advocaat had promised his side would not abandon the attractive style that had brought them this far, though initially they were not allowed to show it. The Czechs' menace stemmed only from a pair of set pieces, however, and goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, preferred to Igor Akinfeev, was untroubled, unlike his counterpart at the opposite end.
Petr Čech had already seen Aleksandr Kerzhakov scuff a good chance wide before the FC Zenit St Petersburg forward struck a post with a header from Konstantin Zyryanov's cross. The Czech defence, pulled out of shape by the Russians' sharp movement and still sharper passing, reacted sluggishly as the ball broke for Dzagoev to cap a move he had started by drilling in.
An almost carbon-copy attack might have immediately brought a second had Dzagoev, faced only with the advancing Čech, shown the poise Shirokov then displayed in doubling his team's lead. Though Arshavin's angled pass was intended for Kerzhakov, it ran neatly to Shirokov, whose recent burst of goals was evident in his confident chip over Čech.
The fluidity in Russia's forays merely served to put the Czechs' lack of that precious quality into greater relief when they moved forward. Only Petr Jiráček provided anything like the required impetus, and a scuffed Michal Kadlec shot, which brought a leisurely save from Malafeev, summed up a disappointing opening half.
Michal Bílek's men appeared set for an equally frustrating second period with Arshavin quickly slipping back into his devilishly creative mood. He was upstaged, however, by Jaroslav Plašil, who picked out Pilař's run behind the Russian back four with a sublime pass. The VfL Wolfsburg man confidently rounded Malafeev before clipping home from an ever-tightening angle.
Arshavin responded to Plašil in kind, flicking nonchalantly through for Kerzhakov, but he was left looking to the heavens after dragging his shot wide of the far post. It was not a night to remember for the 29-year-old, who was substituted soon after firing another opportunity wastefully wide. Fortunately for Russia, his profligacy did not cost them, though Malafeev had to produce an excellent save to stop a Rosický drive before Dzagoev and Pavlyuchenko, who had replaced Kerzhakov, put the issue beyond doubt.
Russia: Malafeev; Zhirkov, Ignashevich, Aleksei Berezutski, Anyukov; Zyryanov, Denisov, Shirokov; Arshavin (c), Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 73), Dzagoev (Kokorin 84)
Substitutes: Akinfeev, Shunin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Granat, Pogrebnyak, Nababkin, Glushakov, Semshov
Coach: Dick Advocaat
Czech Republic: Čech; Kadlec, Sivok, Hubník, Gebre Selassie; Rezek (Hübschmann 46), Jiráček (Petržela 76), Rosický (c), Plašil, Pilař; Baroš (Lafata 85)
Substitutes: Laštůvka, Drobný, Suchý, Necid, Limberský, Rajtoral, Kolář, Pekhart, Darida
Coach: Michal Bílek
Referee: Howard Webb (England)
Man of the Match: Alan Dzagoev (Russia)