MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti)
Russia scraped a 1-0 home win Tuesday over Azerbaijan as Fabio Capello's side maintained their perfect start to World Cup 2014 qualification.
Roman Shirokov scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot on 84 minutes, when Ali Gokdemir tripped Vladimir Bystrov on the edge of the box.
"We had chances to score a goal before we did," Capello said. "We wanted to score goals but we didn't have the luck."
After beating Portugal 1-0 on Friday, Russia remain top of Group F with a six-point lead, with Capello's team yet to concede a goal in their four wins. Russia's first two results were a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland and a 4-0 hammering of Israel last month.
"We kept up very, very well for a very long time, fought well," Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts said. "Our goal here today was to score a goal but we didn't manage to do that."
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev set a new national record for most consecutive minutes without conceding.
A combination of poor Russian finishing and alert goalkeeping ensured Azerbaijan's Kamran Agayev kept a clean sheet in the first half.
By the half-time break, Russia had recorded 11 shots to the visitors' one, with Agaev diving to stop an Alexander Kokorin header and Dmitry Kombarov free-kick, and Alexander Kerzhakov hitting the bar with a speculative effort.
Kombarov spurned Russia's best chance of the half when Kokorin found him in space at the far post with a cross, but the left wing-back headed wide.
All Azerbaijan could muster in response was a wayward 30-yard effort from Serbia-born Branimir Subasic.
In the second half, Russia continued to struggle up front, their best chance of a goal from open play coming when Shirokov hit the ball at Agayev from two yards, while an attempted headed clearance from Subasic would have put Russia ahead on 53 minutes if not for Agayev's quick reactions.
On 72 minutes, the hosts had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Andrei Yeshchenko was tripped by Rahid Amirguliev.
Russia defender Sergei Ignashevich sliced the ball high under a challenge on 88 minutes before heading over from the resulting corner.
Russia substitute Alan Dzagoev saw his low shot deflected wide in stoppage time.
Russia are one of only three teams in Europe not to concede a single goal so far in the qualifiers, along with Romania and reigning world and European champions Spain.
Later Tuesday, Portugal host Northern Ireland and Luxembourg visit Israel in the other matches in Group F. Israel led 2-0 at half-time.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Andrei Yeshchenko, Vasily Berezutsky, Sergei Ignashevich, Dmitry Kombarov, Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Viktor Fayzulin (Denis Glushakov 46), Alexander Samedov (Vladimir Bystrov 62), Alexander Kokorin, Alexander Kerzhakov.
Azerbaijan: Kamran Agayev, Mahir Shuryukov, Vagif Javadov, Alexander Chertoganov (Rauf Aliev 85), Cihan Ozkara, Vladimir Levin, Maxim Medvedev, Branimir Subasic (Rahid Amirguliyev 63), Ali Gokdemir, Ruslan Abyshev, Vuqar Nadirov (Javid Huseynov 46).
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.