Russia got more than a helping hand as they began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 4-0 victory over Liechtenstein in Group G.
Coming off a disappointing World Cup, Russia needed a reassuring win over the part-timers from Liechtenstein, but while the score looked good, the manner in which it was achieved was less convincing.
Two own goals and a somewhat clumsy penalty excused the profligacy of Russia’s strikers before substitute Artem Dzyuba scored the fourth, but they will need to be more clinical against better opposition.
Only four minutes in, Martin Buchel was guilty of turning his back as Sergei Ignashevich blasted a 35-yard free-kick goalwards, and the ball took a wicked deflection to find the net.
Off to a great start, Russia had visions of running up the score, but their frustration would build over the next 40-plus minutes as Denis Cheryshev, Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Kokorin all squandered chances and Liechtenstein goalkeeper Peter Jehle made good saves to deny Kokorin and Dzagoev.
By the time the half-time whistle went, Russia had had 18 attempts, but had only one deflected goal to show for it.
Five minutes into the second half, Russia’s second was even more generous than the first on the part of the visitors, with Jehle blocking Cheryshev’s shot only to see it strike Mario Frick and rebound into the net.
And Frick wrapped up another gift two minutes later, felling Artem Dzyuba in the area, with Dmitri Kombarov stroking home the penalty.
Having been helped to a 3-0 lead, Russia finally scored a goal all of their own making in the 65th minute.
Dzyuba had already seen a header hit the crossbar before Dehle clawed away the rebound in the 62nd minute, but his first international goal soon arrived as he tapped in from Kokorin’s cut-back to cap an incisive break.