MOSCOW, September 10 (R-Sport) - Alexander Kokorin scored a screamer as Fabio Capello’s Russia side dominated Israel in a 3-1 win Tuesday that sends the team to the top of their World Cup qualifying group.
Russia is now one point clear of second-place Portugal in Group F, with only away games next month against minnows Luxembourg and Azerbaijan remaining. The group winners qualify directly for Brazil 2014, while second-placed teams must negotiate the playoffs. Israel sits in third place and is realistically out of contention.
After a goalless first half, Russia came to life after the break, roared on by a capacity crowd in St. Petersburg, which had not hosted international football for two years.
Veteran center-back Vasily Berezutsky played like a No. 7 to score the opener on 49 minutes, displaying some neat footwork in a one-two with Roman Shirokov before stroking the ball into the bottom-left corner.
Three minutes later, Dynamo Moscow’s Kokorin turned on the style for the second, blasting the ball past Israeli goalkeeper Dudu Awat from 20 yards.
Russia’s third was deeply controversial as German referee Manuel Graefe awarded a penalty for handball on 74 minutes, but replays showed Israeli defender Eran Zahavi had controlled the ball on his chest, and Russian midfielder Alan Dzagoev had himself handballed a split-second before.
Roman Shirokov belted the spot-kick into the right post, but was spared embarrassment as his teammate Denis Glushakov scored off the rebound.
Deep into stoppage time, Zahavi headed in off a left-wing cross to give the Israelis a consolation goal.
Later Tuesday, Northern Ireland visits Luxembourg in a match between two teams that cannot qualify.
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