Germany edge Russia to stay on World Cup course

October 12th, 2008 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Dortmund, Germany, Oct 12 (DPA) Germany defeated Russia 2-1 in Dortmund to gain the edge in World Cup football qualifying Group 4 Saturday.First-half goals from Lukas Podolski and captain Michael Ballack put Germany in charge, but Russia came back after the break through Andrey Arshavin to make it a tense second half for the home side.

The result leaves Germany top of the group on seven points ahead of the visit Wednesday to Moenchengladbach of Wales, who defeated Liechtenstein 2-0 to move to six points.

Russia are now a point behind Finland, their visitors Wednesday who moved to four points after defeating Azerbaijan 1-0.

Germany played with authority in the first-half against the losing Euro 2008 semi-finalists, with Podolski in the ninth minute and Ballack in the 28th giving them an early cushion.

However an Arshavin goal from close range six minutes after the break gave Guus Hiddink’s side fresh heart and the home side had to survive some dangerous moments.

Germany coach Joachim Loew was pleased with the performance but admitted his side were fortunate to hold on to their lead.

“We really combined well in the first half. In the second half we certainly had a bit of luck in the closing phase. We wobbled a bit. The Russians are an extremely skilful side and took advantage. It was tense at the end,” he said.

Ballack said: “It was a very intensive game. We played at a high pace in the first half and played a great game with two good goals.

“We couldn’t play so well in the second half. The Russians passed the ball well. They kept their calm, deserved their goal and an equalizer would not have been undeserved in the end.”

Russia almost drew first blood when Pavel Pogrebnyak in the fourth minute missed a golden chance in front of goal from a cross from Arshavin but hit the ball well over the bar.

Ballack then saw a volley tipped over the bar by Igor Akinfeev in goal, but a minute later Podolski gave the keeper no chance.

Miroslav Klose held the ball up well before feeding his Bayern Munich team-mate who turned Vasiliy Berezutskiy and found space top side-foot the ball past Akinfeev from 10 metres.

Ballack increased the score in the 28th when he arrived on the end of a clever chip across goal by Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Germany were now fully in control and Podolski was twice foiled by Akinfeev with long-range efforts, with the Russians looking vulnerable at the back.

Rene Adler, making his debut in the German goal, was rarely tested in the first half, but could no nothing when Aleksandr Anyukov pounced on a mistake by Philipp Lahm and fired the ball through his legs and across the goal for Arshavin to tap in.

Adler then did well to charge down a shot by Sergey Semak and had to save from Arshavin, who a minute earlier had shaved the post with a measured shot following a jinking run into the left of the area.

In a hectic closing stage, the Leverkusen goalkeeper was beaten by substitute Alan Dzagoev but the ball rebounded off the post.

“My compliments go to Rene Adler. He radiated a lot of calm even before the game and showed no sign of nerves,” Loew said.

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