Arshavin impresses as Russia go through

Russia 2 Sweden 0

Andrei Arshavin returned from suspension to earn Russia a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 with victory over Sweden in Innsbruck.

Sweden only needed a point themselves but had no answer to the Zenit St Petersburg playmaker, with Dutchman Guus Hiddink now set to face Holland on Saturday after guiding Russia out of Group D.

Roman Pavlyuchenko opened the scoring at Stadion Tivoli Neu before Arshavin sealed the win Russia required after the break.

Since starting to compete as Russia, in 1992, it is the first time they have been out of the group stages of a major tournament.

A banner among the Russia fans read “Home Swede Home – Goodbye Sweden”, and Hiddink’s men set off looking like they wanted victory wrapped up by half-time.

This was the type of attacking performance that saw England gripped by panic at the Luzhniki Stadium last October when the cracks of Steve McClaren’s reign started to open up.

Pavlyuchenko led to England’s downfall that night and he tested Olof Mellberg and his fellow Swedish defenders just as he did against Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand.

However, the creative force was just behind the Spartak Moscow striker, with Arshavin playing in the hole and causing problems with the angles of his runs and passes.

Arshavin, who has been linked with Manchester City and Newcastle, had been banned for two matches of the finals after he was dismissed in the final qualifier for kicking out. With their attack bolstered, Russia made all the early running.

Had Konstantin Zyryanov not positioned himself in the way of team-mate Igor Semshov after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov opened up Sweden with a flick, Russia would have had a clear sight of goal in the early stages.

Then Arshavin took centre stage, heading wide from Aleksandr Anyukov’s cross from the right and finding himself in a similar position when Pavlyuchenko crossed low from the same flank. Neither finishes got enough purchase.

He then went wide from long range and almost embarrassed Andreas Isaksson when he sliced a cross to the far post and the Manchester City goalkeeper was back just in time to tip over.

From the resulting corner, Yuri Zhirkov fizzed a volley just wide.

Predictably, Arshavin started the move when Russia took the lead in the 24th minute, his ball down the right weighted perfectly for Zyryanov.

The ball was shifted inside to Anyukov and again to Pavlyuchenko, who provided a cool finish despite Fredrik Stoor’s last-ditch slide. With the quarter-finals in sight, Hiddink punched the air in celebration, unleashing two upper cuts.

Russia were rampant but Sweden offered a reminder of their threat when Henrik Larsson looped a header onto the frame of the goal.

Just before the break Freddie Ljungberg forced a save when he latched onto Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s flick, while Mikael Nilsson also tested Igor Akinfeev when he raced through.

It was Russia who were providing sustained pressure, however.

Pavlyuchenko struck the woodwork 10 minutes before the break and Zyryanov saw the rebound clawed away by Isaksson. Bilyaletdinov also wasted chances to extend the lead.

The second goal came in the 50th minute following another sweeping move. Russia went from defence to attack in seconds, culminating with Arshavin sliding in to finish off Zhirkov’s cross, then racing off and celebrating with a Jose Mourinho-style “shhhh”.

Sweden refused to throw in the towel and they pushed players forward when Russia were not creating attacks. Mellberg had a decent chance but headed over from a corner.

Russia also threatened to add more goals, and Zyryanov struck the post with 10 minutes remaining. The only sour note for Arshavin was a booking for a trip.

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