Dmitri Bulykin scored a hat-trick as Russia defeated Switzerland 4-1 in Moscow to keep alive their hopes of automatic qualification from UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 10.
All to play for
The result moved the Russians into second place in the section with eleven points from seven games, one point behind the Swiss and ahead of the Republic of Ireland by virtue of a superior record in head-to-head games. All three sides have one match to play, with the Swiss taking on Ireland in Basel on 11 October, while Russia are at home to Georgia the same night.
The opening 45 minutes was a breathless affair, with both sides eager to attack. Aleksandr Kerzhakov had the first real chance after 12 minutes, shooting just over from a narrow angle, but a minute later the visitors were in front. Patrick Müller's perceptive through-ball found Stéphane Chapuisat inside the penalty area, and his low ball across the face of goal was turned into his own net by Andrei Kariaka under pressure from Alexander Frei.
However, the goal seemed to inspire the home side, who began to press Switzerland back before deservedly equalising seven minutes after falling behind. Kerzhakov beat Swiss goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler to the ball and found Rolan Gusev, whose cross picked out the unmarked Bulykin and the forward headed into an unguarded net.
Both sides continued to throw men forward at every opportunity, with Kerzhakov forcing Zuberbühler into a full-length save before shooting narrowly wide, but it was Bulykin again who gave the Russians a deserved lead. The forward collected a pass and held off Remo Meyer before bursting past Murat Yakin and Bruno Berner to score with a low shot.
The second half began in similar fashion, with Russia still looking the more likely scorers, and Kerzhakov's low strike forced Zuberbühler into another sprawling stop. From the resulting corner, however, it was 3-1, as Bulykin got ahead of his marker to meet Aleksandr Mostovoi's cross with a powerful downward header.
The goal visibly deflated the visitors, and the match was wrapped up 18 minutes from time. Kerzhakov's shot was blocked, but the forward regained possession and curled a cross towards Mostovoi, whose header found the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Both Kerzhakov and substitute Marat Izmailov had chances to add a fifth, while Switzerland ended the match with ten men after midfield player Ricardo Cabanas was sent off following a tangle with Vladislav Radimov.