MOSCOW, October 10 (RIA Novosti) – On a night when the ball just wouldn’t bounce right, when chances were squandered and penalty appeals waved away, Russia lost 1-0 at home to Germany in Moscow in a vital World Cup qualifier.
Saturday evening’s defeat at a packed Luzhniki stadium was the first time Russia had been beaten at home in a qualifier for exactly 11 years, since a 3-2 defeat to France on October 10, 1998.
Needing a victory to leapfrog Germany at the top of their 2010 World Cup qualifying group, Russia’s first chance clear-cut chance to open the scoring came in the 9th minute, but Dynamo Moscow striker Alexander Kerzhakov shot well wide.
Roared on by some 80,000 fans, including President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia began to dominate the game. Germany looked dangerous on the break though, and it took an excellent block by Sergei Ignashevich to prevent Lukas Podolski giving the hosts the lead in the 23rd minute.
Minutes later, a free-kick by Chelsea’s Yury Zhirkov flashed just over the bar, and in the 29th minute a superb through ball by Andrei Arshavin sent Vladimir Bystrov clear through, Rene Adler saving the Zenit St. Petersburg star’s shot.
Germany took the lead against the run of play in the 33rd minute, Miroslav Klose striking after a fluid move involving Podolski and Mesut Ozil.
Russia continued to press in the second-half, and Kerzhakov really should have leveled the score in the 53rd minute, blazing high and wide of an empty net.
The Russians, with coach Guus Hiddink stalking the touchline, had another great chance in the 73rd minute, Igor Semshov’s shot spinning just wide of the post after a fierce shot.
Arshavin had a doubtful penalty appeal waved away as time ran down after tumbling over following a Michael Ballack challenge. Russia had a much stronger shout rejected in the 87th minute after Bystrov was cut down inside the box.
The final whistle saw Germany celebrate automatic qualification for the World Cup. Russia now face a play-off in November.