CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) Russia took a big step toward qualifying for Euro 2016 on Friday as a 2-1 win over Moldova strengthened its hold on second place in Group G.
Russia struggled to break down the Moldovan defense but eventually took the lead through veteran defender Sergei Ignashevich, who blasted the ball into the net in the 58th minute after Artyom Dzyuba knocked on a free kick.
Dzyuba doubled Russia’s lead in the 78th minute with a tap-in when Ignashevich headed on a corner from Dmitry Kombarov.
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Eugeniu Cebotaru rekindled Moldovan hopes with a header in the 85th minute.
Going into the final round of group games on Monday, Russia has a two-point lead over second-placed Sweden, which beat Liechtenstein 2-0.
Marcus Berg scored off a Jimmy Durmaz pass in the 18th minute for Sweden, whose talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 58th international goal with a low shot in the 55th minute. Ibrahimovic had earlier seen a penalty saved by Liechtenstein goalkeeper Peter Jehle shortly before halftime.
On Monday, a draw against Montenegro would be enough to send Russia to next year’s European Championship. If Russia and Sweden finish level on points, Russia will qualify thanks to its superior head-to-head record, while Sweden will go into next month’s playoffs. Russia faces Montenegro at home, while Sweden hosts Moldova.
Austria, which has already qualified as group winner, twice recovered from a goal down to beat 10-man Montenegro 3-2.
Defeat ends qualification hopes for Montenegro, which had been looking to remain in the hunt with a win over Austria and went into halftime 1-0 ahead thanks to Mirko Vucinic’s 32nd-minute goal.
Marc Janko brought Austria level 10 minutes after the restart, but Montenegro struck back through Fatos Beciraj’s 68th-minute strike.
Marko Arnautovic dribbled through the Montenegrin defense to score Austria’s second equalizer on 81 minutes. Shortly afterwards, Montenegro was reduced to 10 men when Vucinic earned himself a second yellow card while protesting a booking.
In stoppage time, Marcel Sabitzer scored from the edge of the penalty area to give unbeaten Austria its eighth win of a dominant qualifying campaign.