Russia topples England 2-1

Russia overcame a slow start to snatch a 2-1 victory in the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier match in Moscow. England led early, but a double strike by Roman Pavlyuchenko sent home fans into a frenzy. The result means Russia has a better chance of reaching th

England's Wayne Rooney put his side one up with a superb strike. A nervy 40 minutes followed, which exploded when a penalty was awarded following Rooney's clumsy challenge on Konstatine Zyryanov. Spartak Moscow's Roman Pavlyuchenko expertly slotted home the resulting spot kick.

Russia's Roman Pavlyuchenko
Russia's Roman Pavlyuchenko
And Russian cheers turned to absolute delight just four minutes later. Pavlyuchenko made the final touch after Aleksey Berezutski's initial attempt was parried by Paul Robinson. If Russia wins its remaining two fixtures, away to Israel and Andorra, they will qualify for the Euro 2008.

After the match, England's Manager Steve McLaren refused to speak with Russian journalists, saying he was only prepared to provide comments to the British media. He also refused to have his news conference translated, which caused most of the Russian journalists to leave.

Around 4,500 Britons came to the Russian capital, while the number of Russian spectators in the stadium was as large as 75,000. Both crowds have a reputation for trouble – thus tight security measures were in place.

Some 5,000 policemen including a crack force of riot police were guarding the stadium.

English fans, London
English fans, London

Meanwhile, the match has provoked some controversy, as the British media has been speculating that the artificial pitch at the stadium is being used to give the Russian side an unfair advantage in the game.

Unlike their Russian competitors, the English team is not accustomed to playing on an artificial pitch. However, the coaches of both teams were relaxed over the allegations and say the advantage, if any, would not be that significant.

Elsewhere, Russia took on England in a friendly match between fans of both countries the night before the big game. Russia won that one 7-5.