Russia claim Euro 2016 berth
Russia secured their qualification for Euro 2016 with a confident 2-0 Group G win over Montenegro in Moscow on Monday.
A goal by right-back Oleg Kuzmin and an Alexander Kokorin penalty set Russia on their way to a fourth win in as many matches since Leonid Slutsky took over in August from sacked Italian Fabio Capello.
Russia had needed just a point to go through as Group G runners-up behind already-qualified Austria, who thrashed Liechtenstein 3-0 in Vienna.
The result condemned Sweden to third place and a spot in the play-offs next month, despite their 2-0 win at home to Moldova.
“My men were really great. They’ve got our team out of trouble in an almost dead-end situation in this campaign,” said Slutsky, who took over when former England manager Capello was sacked after the team achieved just two wins from six matches in their Euro qualifying campaign.
“But as usual the last step was the most difficult one,” Slutsky continued. “We were the favourites on paper but we needed to prove it on the pitch.
“Luckily, everything went our way. We wrapped up the match in the first half and allowed Montenegro to create minimum threats to our goal tonight.”
Russia, who needed a draw in the sold out match at 45,000-seater Otkrytie arena to guarantee themselves a top-two finish, started in a lively fashion pinning the visitors back from the kick-off.
Midfielder Alan Dzagoev had a chance to open the scoring in the seventh minute but Montenegro ‘keeper Milan Mijatovic stopped his low shot confidently from the edge of the area.
The guests, who came to Moscow without injured Inter Milan forward Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic, who has been sent off in the match with Austria, replied with an angled close-range shot by Stanisa Mandic, which flew over the crossbar.
In the 33rd minute Igor Denisov lobbed the ball into the area over the line of the visiting side defenders and the 34-year-old Kuzmin poked into the net past Mijatovic from just outside the six-yard box.
Four minutes later Russia were awarded a penalty kick after Vladimir Rodic fouled Dmitry Kombarov in the area and Kokorin made it 2-0 sending Mijatovic the wrong way from the spot.
After the interval Russia continued testing the defence of Montenegro, who were without coach Branko Brnovic, serving a touchline ban after being sent off against Austria, but failed to improve the scoreline.
Austria, with a record of nine wins and one draw, top the pool on 28 points with Russia on 20 and Sweden on 18. Montenegro are fourth with 14 points.
The 2018 World Cup hosts join Germany, Poland, Albania, Romania, Wales, Belgium, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, England, France, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland in having secured their place in the 24-team finals.