Euro 2008 – Arshavin inspires Russian advance
Russia progressed to the Euro 2008 quarter-finals thanks to an impressive 2-0 victory over Sweden at the Tivoli Neu Stadium in Innsbruck.
Russia played superb passing football throughout, and took a deserved lead through Roman Pavlyuchenko midway through the first half, with the influential Andrei Arshavin doubling their advantage after five minutes of the second half following a slick counter-attack.
The result sends Guus Hiddink’s side into the last eight as Group D runners-up behind Spain, and they will face Group C winners the Netherlands in Basel on Saturday.
Sweden only needed a draw to go through ahead of Russia, but the defeat marks the end of the line for an ageing squad, and former Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United man Henrik Larsson is unlikely to pull on the yellow shirt of his country again.
Both sides were boosted by the return of influential players, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic overcoming a knee problem to start for Sweden and Russian playmaker Arshavin making his first appearance of the tournament after missing the first two group games through suspension.
Russia took to the field knowing they had to win to progress to the last eight, and they started brightly with Arshavin spraying passes around and causing problems inside Swedish territory.
After 15 minutes Pavlyuchenko drilled a low cross into the Sweden box from the right that Diniyar Bilyaletdinov could not make meaningful contact with, before Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson had to tip an Arshavin cross over the crossbar and Yuri Zhirkov lashed a well-controlled volley wide of the right-hand post from the subsequent corner.
Russia went ahead on 24 minutes thanks to a beautifully constructed goal. Igor Semshov tucked the ball infield to marauding right-back Aleksandr Anyukov from wide on the right, and his low centre was swept home from 12 yards by Pavlyuchenko.
Sweden almost hit back immediately when Larsson saw a looping header bounce off the crossbar, but Russia quickly regained their rhythm, and Pavlyuchenko was inches away from doubling their lead when a right-footed curler struck the right-hand upright, with Konstantin Zyrianov’s headed follow-up being clawed away by Isaksson.
The Sweden keeper then had to push away a long-range effort from Zhirkov, before Lars Lagerback’s men rallied towards the end of the first period, with Freddie Ljungberg and Mikael Nilsson both testing Igor Akinfeev in the Russian goal.
But Arshavin put the game beyond the Swedes five minutes into the second half when he tucked home Zhirkov’s low pass from the left after another breathless counter-attack.
As Sweden pushed forward they began to leave huge spaces at the back, and Zyrianov saw a deflected effort from the edge of the box strike the left-hand post, before Pavlyuchenko, twice, and Arshavin spurned good late chances to add further gloss to a memorable Russian performance.