Russia have almost guaranteed a berth at the European championships in Poland and Ukraine next year after beating Slovakia 1-0in a crucial qualifier on the road.
Dick Advocaat’s charges dominated most of the game in Zilina but couldn’t crack Slovakia’s defense until midway through the second half, when CSKA’s Alan Dzagoev’s deflected long-distance shot found the net in the 71st minute.
With the Slovaks, who desperately needed to win, pouring numbers forward in their efforts to equalize, Russia began to find space opening up around the pitch. However, Arshavin and company couldn’t capitalize on this advantage.
They didn’t need to rue their failure to make certain of things though, as at the other end of the pitch the hosts didn’t even manage to create a single scoring opportunity.
Consequently, Russia tops Group B with 20 points and faces minnows Andorra in its final qualifying game in Moscow on Tuesday.
After the game, Russian captain Andrey Arshavin returned his win bonus for beating Slovakia and asked the Russian Football Union to spend the sum on attracting fans to Moscow for the crucial qualifier.
Elsewhere, Armenia beat Macedonia 4-1 in Group B’s other Friday match and now have 17 points before their final game in Ireland.
The latter won 2-0 in Andorra and remain second in the group on 18 points.
Slovakia remain on 14 points and out of contention before their last game in Macedonia.