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EURO 2004: Russia out with head held high

Russia reacts to absurd refereeing decision. Portugal 2 Russia 0
Refereeing has nothing to do with politics. Referees from small countries with chips on their shoulders do not influence games. So they say.

Sergei Ovchinnikov did not purposefully handle the ball outside his area, therefore his sending off was wrong and this influenced the game. However, Russia controlled the remaining 80 minutes with some excellent football, which augurs well for the World Cup in 2006. A pity the refereeing was not up to the standard of Russia’s football.

Line-ups

Portugal
Ricardo; Miguel, Jorge Andrade, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente ; Costinha, Figo, Maniche, Deco; Simгo Sabrosa, Pauleta.

Russia
Ovchinnikov; Smertin, Evseev, Sennikov, Bugayev ; Kariaka, Loskov,  Izmailov, Alenichev, Aldonin; Kerzhakov,

Referee: Terje Hauge (NORWAY)

The name of this referee should enter the annals of sporting history for the way in which this incompetent clown took the game away from Russia.

Portugal scores early but Russia controls the game

Portugal and Russia were testing each other in the opening minutes, Portugal being goaded on by the home crowd in Benfica’s new Estadio da Luz. However the early Portuguese goal was a creation of FC Porto. Deco beat his opponent and passed a fast ball to Maniche, who received the ball of the spot, turned and rifled his shot past a diving Ovchinnikov.

1-0 to Portugal, seven minutes. The crowd smelt blood in the air, a massacre was on.

Not so for this magnificent Russian team, which reacted immediately and began to answer the Portuguese, gradually wresting control of the game, first in defensive terms and then in the midfield. After 11’, Kiriaka probed from the left, beating Ricardo Carvalho, one of the best defenders in Europe, the first of many touches of class from this Russian midfield player.

On the quarter-hour, a magnificent attacking move by Kerzhavkov, Loskov and Alenichev created danger on the left. Deco, Figo and Simao Sabrosa maintained the pressure by Portugal, always controlled by a solid Russian defence.

Russia gradually take control

Simao, Figo and Manniche kept up the pressure from Portugal but Russia began to react after 20’. Loskov and Kerzhakov tested the defence twice until Ricardo Carvalho earned a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Kerzhakov. Smertin and Evseev gradually began to control the danger poised by Luis Figo on the left flank. Deco, Simao Sabrosa and Nuno Valente kept up the pressure but the Russian defence was like granite. It seemed as if the Portuguese attackers would never break through.

Referee Hauge makes his mark

Loskov, Kerzhakov, Alenichev and Kariaka began to threaten the Portuguese defence. It seemed as if the tide was turning until…in the 45’ minute, on the stroke of half time, Sergei Ovchinnikov left his area to intercept a loose pass from Sennikov which Pauleta had latched on to. Ovchinnikov fell on the ball, keeping his hands well away from it. Possibly, his right glove touched the ball momentarily but there is a difference between hand on ball and ball on hand.

The Norwegian referee jumped at the opportunity, awarding a free kick to Portugal and a red card to the Russian goalkeeper, reducing Russia to ten players for all the second half. Great contribution.

Yartsev took off midfielder Aldonin, substituting him with the second goalkeeper, Vyacheslav Malafeyev, a magnificent choice which kept Russia in the game in the second half.

Russia determined in second half

Bugayev and Sennikov made some good interventions in the Russian area to keep the Portuguese strike force at bay in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Gradually, Izmailov and Kariaka began to create chances, getting closer and closer to the Portuguese goal. On 53’, Kariaka came close with a shot which whistled past the crossbar.

Although Portugal tried to increase their lead through attacks by Deco and Figo, the Russian defence controlled the area calmly.

On 57’, Scolari substituted Pauleta by Nuno Gomes, a player who runs deeper and who supports the midfield, a clear sign that the Russian team was making gains. The response was two attacks and shots by Kariaka within one minute, fouls by Deco and Jorge Andrade in the following minute; on 60’, a direct free kick by Loskov followed by two shots and on 62’, an attempt by Kariaka.

Malafeev keeps Russia in charge

The pressure on Portugal by Russia’s depleted team was mounting, so much so that Scolari decided to substitute Simao Sabrosa by Rui Costa (63’). Portugal began a period of probing football but first the Russian defence and then Malafeev, the second-choice goalkeeper, kept the attacks at bay.

On 64’, Malafeev touched a Figo shot onto the post, one minute after which Kerzhakov fell in the Portuguese area, fouled by Ricardo Carvalho. The referee did not see the shoulder charge. After 68’, Alenichev and Kerzhakov again combined well and Kariaka unleashed a good shot one minute later, which was blocked by Miguel in the Portuguese defence.

Malafeev again denied Nuno Gomes after a deft move by Figo agter 71’ and this provoked Yartsev tosubstitute the tiring Izmailov by the fresher Bystrov (72’). However, on 74’ it was again Malafeev denying Deco with another excellent save.

Russia’s ten men tire

Kerzhakov continued to battle away up front for Russia but Portugal sent wave after wave of attacks into the Russian area, Figo and Rui Costa testing Malafeev who corresponded with a humble and efficient exhibition of quality goalkeeping on 76’. The heroic Russian team, which had held out for so long against the home team and the home crowd in the blistering heat, was beginning to tire.

On 77’, Malafeev again denied Miguel after a pass from Rui Costa. After 78’, Cristiano Ronaldo substituted Luis Figo in the Portuguese attacking midfield, Yartsev bravely responding by taking off the midfielder Kariaka and substituting him by the forward Bulykin. Russia now had three players in forward positions.

After 81’, Bystrov fell in the Portuguese penalty area, in what seemed a clear penalty. Only the Norwegian referee did not see it.

The Portuguese kept pressing forward with Russia’s ten men tiring visibly in the tremendous heat until Rui Costa put the game out of reach after 89’.

Portugal 2- Russia 0.

Russia was not lucky in this competition, meeting the two Iberian teams on their home territory and during the Iberian summer. However, the Russian team fought bravely, provided a wonderful spectacle of class passing football and will certainly have gained valuable experience for the next World Cup in Germany in 2006.

Russia will be the team to watch, the touches of brilliance here in Portugal were proof of this. Russia goes out but with its head held high, having gained great respect and many friends.

What a wonderful game of football.

Match statistics

Russia      Shots (on target)    Portugal

6 (1)                                          15(9)
21                    Fouls                 18
1                     Corners                6
44%               Possession          56%