FT: Russia 2-0 Northern Ireland (Fayzulin , Shirokov )
In one of the first matches of the World Cup Qualifiers saw a Russian side who should have progressed during the Euros pitted against a Northern Ireland side, who wanted to make their presence known in the tournament. Russia were dominant in the first half, with Fayzulin scoring after 30 minutes on the end of some magnificent play. Despite a 2nd half resurgence, Northern Ireland were almost easily disposed of by Russia, who were unlucky not to have scored more goals.
1. Fabio Capello Starts Off Well
He may rarely brighten the room with a smile, but Fabio Capello will go home an elated man after that win. After moving on from managing the England squad, Capello now wants to sink his paws into a Russian side, which did not feature Arshavin. Retention of a clean sheet and winning by a margin greater than one will be two of the big positive that he can draw from the game, although his side could have had more goals if they were slightly more clinical in front of the Northern Ireland goal.
2. Northern Ireland Need Defensive Lessons
For most of the game, Northern Ireland were split open time and time again by slick passing and relentless attacking from Russia. Youngster Alan Dzagoev and Kherzakov both proved to be nuisances for the Northern Ireland defence. Their goalkeeper Roy Carroll made numerous vital saves, most notably against Shirikov in the 32nd minute, with the rebound being knocked over the bar. If anything, Roy Carroll had displayed a positive performance in a team that, overall, had a negative game.
3. Will Kerzhakov Ever Score?
Nominated in our Euro 2012 Flops of the Tournament for having 14 shots and not one of them being on target. Today’s game saw Kerzhakov hit the target a few times, as well as missing two or three excellent opportunities during the game. His scoring may not be hi strong point at the moment, but he did play as if he had a point to prove by linking up well if Alan Dzagoev and also setting up the first goal for Fayzulin to score in the 30th minute. If he doesn’t prosper as a striker for his country, then making him a creative player in the team may not be such a bad idea for Capello, judging solely by today’s performance.