Russia rout Czechs
Dzagoev with two goals as Advocaat's men power to victory
Last Updated: 09/06/12 9:26am
Russia produced a convincing display to move into pole position in Group A with a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in Wroclaw.
Two emphatic first-half counter-attacks stunned a poor Czech side with Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov the men on the scoresheet.
Wasteful finishing by Aleksandr Kerzhakov looked like it might prove costly when Vaclar Pilar beat Vyacheslav Malafeev neatly from Jaroslav Plasil's expert through ball.
But Dzagoev's second of the night ended the game as a contest before substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko made a mockery of Kerzhakov's earlier misses by making it four.
Curiously, the Czechs had begun brightly and dominated possession in the early stages without creating any clear opportunities.
But it was a different story at the other end with Russia scoring from their first opening just before the quarter of an hour mark.
Konstantin Zyryanov's right-wing cross was headed against the post by Kerzhakov but the ball bounced back out to Dzagoev who fired low into the corner from 15 yards.
The pattern continued with Dick Advocaat's men happy to allow their opponents to have the ball only to counter-attack in numbers and leave Petr Cech looking horribly exposed in the Czech goal.
Midway through the first half, Andrey Arshavin seized on a loose ball and split the defence with an inviting pass for Shirokov to dink the ball over the advancing Cech and double the lead.
The Czech Republic were forced to chase the game after the interval and it made for a wide-open second half.
The busy Pilar got his reward when he delightfully rounded Malafeev to halve the deficit but it proved a false hope for the Czechs.
Russia remained the more dangerous side throughout and it was little surprise when the talented Dzagoev blasted past Cech once again.
Indeed, the only disappointed player on the Russia side will be Kerzhakov.
The 29-year-old squandered a series of chances and became the first man in European Championship history to have seven efforts at goal and miss the target with every one of them.
His appalling finishing was only further emphasised when his replacement, Pavlyuchenko, scored with a superb strike within moments of coming onto the field.
But minor gripes aside this was a glorious start from the Russians that will rekindle memories of their run to the semi-finals of this competition in 2008.
And with Poland and Greece having been forced to settle for a point apiece in Group A earlier in the day, Russia moved two points clear at the top and are already well placed to reach the quarter-finals.
Despite Russia being favourites to top the group, it was the Czechs who settled the better of the two sides.
It took Russia almost a quarter of an hour to muster a meaningful attack, and when they did they came close to taking the lead.
The imperious Arshavin brilliantly played in Yuri Zhirkov near the left-hand byline but striker Kerzhakov could only steer his effort wide.
But it was a brief reprieve for the Czechs as Dzagoev drove at the heart of their defence to tee Zyryanov up for a cross that was headed against the post by Kerzhakov, Dzagoev followed up to slam home the loose ball.
The CSKA Moscow midfielder should have doubled the lead just a few minutes later after another incisive Russian break-out, but he flashed wastefully wide of Cech's goal.
Rezek saw a glancing header saved by Malafeev at the other end but an error from Plasil allowed Russia to make it 2-0 in the 24th minute.
The midfielder gave away possession and Arshavin seized on it, the Arsenal player's pass was meant for Kerzhakov but the striker's miscontrol saw the ball reach Shirokov, who lofted over the advancing Cech.
Plasil was fortunate to get away with a clumsy push on Arshavin in the penalty area, as English World Cup final referee Howard Webb waved away the appeals.
Kerzhakov was once again guilty of being profligate in front of goal 12 minutes before the break, blazing over the bar from Zyryanov's pull back as Russia again toyed with the Czech defence.
Having been second best for much of the opening stanza the Czechs were again on the back foot after the restart with Kerzhakov again going close.
But Russia's momentum was halted in the 52nd minute as they were pegged back by Pilar.
Bordeaux midfielder Plasil produced a superb pass to cut the Russian defence, allowing diminutive winger Pilar to round Malafeev and find the net.
Buoyed by the goal Michal Bilek's side suddenly looked far more assured and began to take the game to Russia as the match became increasingly open.
Arshavin's artistry meant Russia remained a threat at the other end, but once again Kerzhakov failed to hit the target from a lovely through ball.
The striker's nightmare evening soon got worse as he shot hopelessly wide after cutting inside Michal Kadlec, prompting Advocaat to put him out of his misery and summon Pavlyuchenko from the bench.
Theodor Gebre Selassie almost produced a stunning effort as his first-time volley from a Tomas Rosicky cross flashed narrowly wide of the near post, before the Arsenal midfielder's awkward angled shot was gathered at the second attempt by Malafeev.
But Dzagoev effectively killed the game off when Pavlyuchenko seized on a loose ball 12 minutes from time to set up the midfielder to plant a firm shot beyond Cech.
Pavlyuchenko then put a gloss on the win as he tricked his way into the box before firing into the roof of the net.
European Championships Group A
European Championships Group B
European Championships Group C
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European Championships Group D
Russia v Czech Republic
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