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Finland have moved within two points of the Group A lead after a 2-1 win at home against Kazakhstan in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying this evening.
Roy Hodgson's men began the day level on 14 points with Portugal and Serbia and five adrift of leaders Poland, meaning the pressure was on to keep pace. As Portugal were held 1-1 in Armenia and Serbia lost 3-2 in Belgium tonight, Finland's success gave them control of second place. Although Dmitriy Byakov had cancelled out Alexei Eremenko Jr's opener for the hosts, Teemu Tainio struck a second-half winner to delight the crowd in Tampere.
After a nervy opening, it was Finland who struck first in the 13th minute. Jonatan Johansson played a neat pass to Eremenko Jr, who lobbed visiting goalkeeper David Loria from 18 metres. The hosts almost doubled their advantage three minutes later but Loria first produced a finger-tip save to deny a header from Jonas Kolkka before palming away a similar effort from Toni Kallio following Eremenko Jr's corner.
The visitors eventually found their feet and replied with an equaliser on 23 minutes. Sergey Larin whipped in a right-wing cross which Byakov duly headed in. The goal came as a shock to Finland, but they soon recovered their composure and Tainio should have done better with a header which he put wide of the right post. Kazakhstan made a bright start to the second half with both Larin and Ruslan Baltiev missing the target from distance.
Hodgson's side continued to boss proceedings and regained the advantage just after the hour through Tainio. Loria had done well to push away his overhead kick moments earlier, but there was nothing he could do when the resulting corner from substitute Daniel Sjölund was tapped in. The visitors continued to come under pressure but Loria coped well with the onslaught and in particular denied both Eremenko Jr and Sjölund on repeated occasions.
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