Friday, June 7, 2013

Portugal 1 - Russia 0; Luxembourg 1 - Azerbaijan 1

Azerbaijan were looking to somehow revive their faltering campaign at home in Baku against Luxembourg.  Azerbaijan nearly had an opener before seven minutes had elapsed when a corner kick was nearly flicked on for an own goal by Maurice Deville, but Luxembourg suffered no harm.  Vagiv\f Jagadov nearly scored off a spin-and-shoot for Azerbaijan midway through the half, but his effort grazed the top of the crossbar.

Just beyond the halfway point of the second half, Azerbaijani captain Rashad Sagidov had a massive shot tipped over the bar by Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert. Two minutes after that, a simple failure to mark finally broke the deadlock.  Elnur Allahverdiyev's cross found a wide open Ruslan Abishov in the area for a simple header under no pressue that lead to Azerbaijan getting the opening goal.  However, Luxembourg managed to get back on level terms ten minutes later.  An impressive finish on a first international goal from Stefano Bensi did the job.  Bensi had to run to his right after receiving a pass in order to evade two defenders, yet his strike across his body had enough power from eighteen yards to do the damage.  Azerbaijan substitute Branimir Subasic was sent off in minute 84 for a studs-up challenge into Mario Mutsch.  Luxembourg could not take advantage in the time that remained, and the match ends in a 1-1 draw.

Lisbon was the home of the marquee clash of the day with Portugal needing a win at home to retain any home of direct qualification over group leaders and visitors Russia.  Miguel Veloso stood over a free kick for Portugal with just under ten minutes having elapsed.  His cross to the back post was kicked in off the post by Helder Postiga, and Portugal had the early lead of which they had dreamed.  This was the first goal conceded by Russia in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  Russia may have been shaken up by two injury substitutions after a half hour of play, but Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio nearly had his net shaken up after a strange play.  Patricio had run very far out of his goalmouth to punch a ball, but the ball fell in play in his own box, and Russia had the net at their mercy.  Dmitri Kombarov's pass to Denis Glusharov was a tad bit too hard, so Glusharov had to try an outside-of-the-foot flick with back to the goal that rolled just wide of the empty net.  Portugal took their 1-0 lead into the locker room.

In the second period, Portugal seemed content to wait on the counterattack which never really came to fruition.  Russia nearly scored off an audacious bicycle kick from Vladimir Bystrov, but the shot sailed over the goal.  Bystrov made a probing run with eight minutes left that produced a cut-back pass to an oncoming Roman Shirokov, but the shot was incredibly weak, allowing the chance to expire.  Cristiano Ronaldo had a couple chances to double the Portuguese lead late in the game on counterattacks, but he was denied.  Portugal were not denied on the night, however, as they win 1-0 and move into first place in Group F.

Portugal 14 pts +6
Russia 12 pts +7
Israel 11 pts +7
Azerbaijan 4 pts -6
N. Ireland 3 pts -4
Luxembourg 3 pts -10

Ruslan Abishov 71

Stefano Bensi 80

Helder Postiga 9

Match Reports:

Highlights: (Luxembourg v. Azerbaijan) (Portugal v. Russia)

Full Match Video: (Luxembourg v. Azerbaijan) (Portugal v. Russia)

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