Roman Pavlyuchenko scored a hat trick Saturday as Russia came from behind to beat Armenia 3-1 in their qualifier for the 2012 European Championship.
Article continues below ...
Markos Pizzelli opened the scoring for Armenia with a solo effort in the 25th minute, beating Igor Akinfeev with a low shot from 12 yards.
But Pavlyuchenko equalized a minute later by volleying in Aleksandr Anyukov’s high cross from the right. The Tottenham striker beat Armenia’s offside trap and put Russia ahead in the 59th before converting a penalty after Yuri Zhirkov was brought down.
Russia has 13 points from six games in Group B. Armenia is five points behind.
Other Group B contenders Ireland and Slovakia, tied for second with 10 points from five games, were scheduled to play late Saturday against Macedonia and last-place Andorra respectively.
Russia opened strongly, with Dmitri Toprbinskiy missing a chance in front of goal and Pavlyuchenko forcing Roman Berezovsky into his first save with a shot from close range.
Armenia, which held Russia to a 0-0 draw in Yerevan in March, produced its first attack after 10 minutes but Gevorg Ghazaryan fired wide from the edge of the box.
After Pizzelli put the visitor ahead, Pavlyuchenko equalized with his first goal in qualifying for Euro 2012.
The move for Russia’s second goal was started by Andrei Arshavin, playing at the Petrovskiy stadium – home to his former club Zenit St. Petersburg – for the first time since moving to Arsenal in March 2009.
Arshavin’s pass to Zhirkov was redirected to Igor Semshov, who sent the ball into the box for Pavlyuchenko. The striker beat Armenia’s offside trap and converted, before wrapping up the victory from the spot in the 73rd minute.
Armenia had a strike by Edgar Manucharyan disallowed for offside in the 86th.
”We are really satisfied with the result,” Russia coach Dick Advocaat said. ”It was a must-win for us today. We were nervous and had problems in the (midfield). We have won, but we must improve our game.”
Armenia coach Vardan Minasyan said: ”Pavlyuchenko scored both his goals when he was left unmarked in the box. It was our mistake.”
Russia next hosts Macedonia on Sept. 2, while Armenia will be at Andorra.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Vasily Berezutsky, Alexander Anyukov (Renat Yanbaev, 75), Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov, Igor Semshov (Denis Glushakov, 69), Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov (Alan Dzagoev, 82), Roman Pavlyuchenko, Andrei Arshavin, Dmitri Toprbinskiy.
Armenia: Roman Berezovsky, Levon Hayrapetyan, Sargis Hovsepyan, Robert Arzumanyan, Karlen Mkrtchyan (Artak Edigaryan, 89), Marcos Pizzelli (Artur Edigaryan, 67), Gevorg Ghazaryan, Yura Movsisyan, Hrayr Mkoyan, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Levon Pachajyan (Edgar Manucharyan, 57).