Andrew Flint reporting from the Krestovsky Stadium –
Russia v Spain saw a revitalised Sbornaya come back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to draw a pulsating encounter with Spain thanks to a double from Fyodor Smolov. Sergio Ramos notched two penalties – both controversially given – with the only sour note an ugly clash of Andrey Lunev’s head with Rodrigo’s knee late on.
- Sergio Ramos converts two controversially-given penalties
- Fyodor Smolov with two brilliantly taken finishes
- Low attendance of just over 45,000 – thanks to 21:45 kickoff on weekday
Russia v Spain – 3-3
Goals: 0-1 (Jordi Alba 9’), 0-2 (Sergio Ramos 35’ pen), 1-2 (Fedor Smolov 41’), 2-2 (Aleksei Miranchuk 51′), 2-3 (Ramos 53′), 3-3 (Fyodor Smolov 70’)
Fedor Smolov took centre stage with a superb double to give Stanislav Cherchesov’s adventurous Russia a well-deserved draw in Saint Petersburg after the hosts twice came back to deny Spain. In front of a disappointing crowd of just over 45,000 – due to the late kick-off time dictated by Spanish TV broadcast demands – Spain had looked like running away with the win after going two goals up after 35 minutes through Jordi Alba’s close-range header header and a Sergio Ramos penalty, the latter controversially given for handball against Daler Kuzyaev.
Alba was left unmarked six yards out from Marco Asensio’s pinpoint left-wing cross to head over a helpless Andrey Lunev after just nine minutes. Only after the half-hour mark, Kuzyaev was adjudged to have handled the ball when Rodrigo header even though it was his shoulder that made contact. Ramos slotted confidently to give a commanding lead to the visiting side.
A beautifully crafted move started by Kuzyaev’s searching pass to Aleksei Miranchuk outside the box was slid into Smolov’s path with a craftily-disguised pass from the Lokomotiv Moscow man. Smolov still had to evade the attention of Spain’s experienced central defensive partnership that boasts over 30 caps between them; with an instinctive turn, he did just that, creating the space for a left-foot finish past De Gea to hand Russia hope heading into halftime.
Cherchesov’s game plan was clear – by playing both Alan Dzagoev and Aleksei Miranchuk in advanced positions he allowed possession to be maintained more intelligently against one of the best international midfields in world football. At halftime, Russia held almost 50% of the possession but were struggling to find regular chances. After the break, it was the clever run of Yuriy Zhirkov that sliced through Spain’s defence, allowing him to run along the byline before pulling back to Miranchuk, who bundled in at the near post under pressure.
Only two minutes later the referee again penalised Russia’s defence for a seemingly fair challenge – that could easily have been given against Nacho for a hefty aerial challenge – but Ramos once again made no mistake from 12 yards after stuttering in his run-up. Dzagoev had appealed for a penalty early on after a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge but was left frustrated by the lack of interest from Gianluca Rocchi.
With 20 minutes to go, Miranchuk slid a pass across the edge of the box to Alexander Kokorin – who had only been on the pitch for less than ten minutes himself – who touched it on to Smolov. The in-form Krasnodar hitman struck a first-time effort from the edge of the box rocketing past De Gea and earn a hugely entertaining and well-deserved draw for Russia. Andrey Lunev was involved in a nasty clash of heads with Rodrigo late on leaving Denis Glushakov to deputise in goal after Russia had already used their maximum six substitutions, but a breathless match had given its last moment of drama.
Russia v Spain – Man of the Match
Fedor Smolov took his chance in the limelight with a superbly-taken double, but it was far from his only effect on the game. His movement gave Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos plenty to think about, and certainly gave his reputation a timely boost. Shortly before halftime he pulled a goal back with a beautiful turn that outwitted Pique to finish low past David De Gea, and drew his country level with a spectacular first-time rocket from the edge of the box.
Russia v Spain – Talking Point
An already explosive match was set alight by two highly-contentious decisions by Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi, which would have changed the complexion of the entire match. The first was a handball against Daler Kuzyaev who shouldered a harmless looping header back from Rodrigo, and the second was a challenge from nacho that in all honesty could have been given the other way.
Russia v Spain – Match Stats
- Igor Akinfeev and Mario Fernandes sat out this match as Andrey Lunev played
- The attendance of 45,000 was partially down to the awkward kickoff time
- Spain had 65% possession but were only marginally superior in that area in the first half
Russia v Spain – Line-ups
Lunev – Vasin, Kudryashov (Rausch 75’), Dzhikia – Smolnikov, Glushakov, Kuzyaev (Erokhin 63’), Zhirkov (Dmitry Kombarov 82’) – Dzagoev (Kokorin 63’), Alexey Miranchuk (Anton Miranchuk 66’) – Smolov
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
De Gea – Nacho, Pique, Ramos (Vitolo 54’), Alba (Alberto Moreno 45’) – Busquets (David Silva 54’) – Thiago (Saul 60’), Iniesta (Illaramendi 45’) – Suso (Callejon 45’), Asensio – Rodrigo
Coach: Julen Lopetegui
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football, and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.