MOSCOW (AFP) - European championship semi-finalists Russia started their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 home win over Wales in the two teams' Group Four encounter in Moscow on Wednesday.
Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg star Pavel Pogrebnyak scored for the hosts, while Joseph Ledley was on target for Wales under heavy autumn rain.
Russia, who took to the pitch of the packed Moscow Lokomotiv's 28,000-seater at full strength, started confidently as they sought to lay bare their opponents' defensive frailties.
Meanwhile, the Red Dragons, weakened by the absence of several first-line players, sat back trying to avoid unnecessary risks and sought recourse to rare counter-attacks.
Pavlyuchenko had a chance for an opener on 13 minutes but his unopposed 10-metre shot could only hit Welsh 'keeper Wayne Hennesy.
Gareth Bale then had a clear opportunity to put Wales into the lead from the penalty spot after Russian skipper Sergei Semak fouled him in the box in the 17th minute.
But Russian goalie Igor Akinfeyev guessed right and parried Tottenham defender Bale's spotkick.
In the 22nd minute Pavlyuchenko then broke the deadlock, firing in from another penalty after Carl Robinson had brought down Konstantin Zyryanov in the box.
Thereafter, Russia dominated, pinning the Welsh back and keeping their defence on their toes but failed to increase their lead before the break as the players slipped and slid on the greasy pitch.
After the interval Wales seized the initiative and pulled level as Bale dribbled his way into the Russia's box through three defenders to feed Ledley, who slipped the ball into an unguarded net in the 67th minute from close rage.
The hosts, spurred by the capacity crowd, regained their composure, however, and second-half substitute striker Pogrebnyak netted Russia's winner, firing in a rebound from close range through a forest of Welsh legs with nine minutes remaining.
|Coach: G. Hiddink|
for D. Torbinski 60'
for S. Semak 74'
for R. Pavlyuchenko 90+3'
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