A goal in first-half stoppage time by Aleksei Miranchuk got Russia’s Euro 2020 campaign back on track as they beat Finland 1-0 in Group B on Wednesday.
The Russians, who remain unbeaten against the Finns since their first meeting in 1912, made amends for their opening loss to Belgium as the group remains wide open.
The Finns, winners 1-0 over Denmark in their first game that was marked by Christian Eriksen’s heart attack on the pitch, almost made the perfect start when Joel Pohjanpalo’s third minute header beat the Russian keeper but was ruled offside after a VAR review.
It was the hosts, fired up by the home crowd, who took control in the first half, with the Finns sitting back and soaking up the pressure.
The visitors waited for the occasional break and both Pohjanpalo and Teemu Pukki tested goalkeeper Matvei Safonov.
An injury to Mario Fernandes after a rough fall in the 26th minute did not shift Russia’s focus and his replacement Vyacheslav Karavaev almost tapped in a cutback at the far post minutes after coming on.
Their dominance finally paid off in stoppage time thanks to a piece of magic from Miranchuk, who took on two defenders on the right, changed direction and scooped the ball into the far corner with a superb left-footed effort with Russia’s first shot on target.
The Finns shot out of the blocks after the break with Pukki carving out two chances early on.
That, however, came with a risk as it opened up spaces for Russia, who were a threat on the break with Rifat Zhemaletdinov’s low shot veering just wide in the 67th and Daler Kuzyaev’s curled effort forcing a superb save from keeper Lukas Hradecky as Finland’s energy gradually faded.
Russia held on to earn three points, with Stanislav Cherchesov’s side up to second in the standings on three, ahead of Finland thanks to the head-to-head result. Belgium, who beat Russia 3-0 in their opener, top the group ahead of their game against Denmark on Thursday.