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Russians in driving seat after Czech win

Russia’s Andrey Arshavin (right) in a duel with Theodor Selassie.

Russia’s Andrey Arshavin (right) in a duel with Theodor Selassie.

Russia 4
Dzagoev 15, 79, Shirokov 24, Pavlyuchenko 82;
Czech Republic 1
Pilar 51;

Russia: V. Malafeev, A. Anyukov, A. Berezutski, S. Ignashevich, Y. Zhirkov, R. Shirokov, I. Denisov, K. Zyryanov, A. Dzagoev (A. Kokorin 85), A. Kerzhakov (R. Pavly-uchenko 73), A. Arshavin.

Czech Republic: P. Cech, T. Gebre Selassie, R. Hubník, T. Sivok, M. Kadlec, J. Rezek (T. Hubschman 46), J. Plasil, T. Rosicky, P. Jiracek (M. Petrzela 76), V. Pilar, M. Baros (D. Lafata 85).

Referee: Howard Webb (England).

Attendance: 40,000

A vibrant Russia took command of Group A on the opening day of the Euro 2012 with a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic last night.

Alan Dzagoev notched a brace with Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko grabbing one each as Russia went two points clear at the top of the group following the earlier 1-1 draw between co-hosts Poland and Greece.

It was a statement of intent from a team many are starting to regard as more than just outsiders for overall victory.

For the Czechs though, Vaclav Pilar’s strike was scant consolation from a poor showing.

Russia seemed disjointed at the beginning and it was the Czechs who bossed the opening exchanges.

But once they did, they carved Michal Bilek’s team open in ruthless fashion.

A backheel from Arshavin set Yuri Zhirkov free at the byline and his cross found Aleksandr Kerzhakov, but he couldn’t direct his side-footed finish on target.

Yet within 60 seconds Russia were in front.

Dzagoev capitaised on two Czechs bumping into each other in midfield to surge forward and release Konstantin Zyryanov down the right. He picked out Kerzhakov at the back post and when his header came back off the upright it was Dzagoev who arrived on the scene in the right place and at the right time to drill home.

Dzagoev then wasted a great chance as he took a wild swing with a wood from the green when played in on the right by Kerzhakov.

But on 23 minutes it was two as Arshavin played an incisive ball into the box and although it was an inch too far in front of Kerzhakov, Shirokov sneaked in around the back to dink the ball over Petr Cech.

The Czechs produced little in terms of clear-cut chances but Jan Rezek flicked a header into Vyacheslav Malafeev’s arms before sending a shot straight at the keeper.

The second period began with a strangely muted atmosphere but seven minutes in it was livened up as Jaroslav Plasil sliced open the Russian defence and Pilar skipped around Malafeev before sliding the ball home.

Arshavin, cleverly clipped in Kerzhakov but the Zenit striker had not brought his shooting boots to Poland and screwed his effort wide.

His next two efforts were so awful that he was roundly jeered before Advocaat put him out of his misery and brought on Pavlyuchenko.

But 11 minutes from time Dzagoev sealed the points with a rising finish from Pavlyuchenko’s pass.

And then Pavlyuchenko added an individual effort from the edge of the box.

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