Russia went top of Group A in Euro 2012 as Alan Dzagoev’s double helped them to an impressive victory over the Czech Republic at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw.
Dick Advocaat’s side made a slow start but soon found their stride to take a 2-0 interval lead through midfielders Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov.
Vaclav Pilar gave the Czechs hope by pulling one back shortly after the break but Dzagoev and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko, on for the profligate Aleksandr Kerzhakov, sealed the win.
It took Russia almost a quarter of an hour to muster a meaningful attack, and when they did they came close to taking the lead.
The imperious Andrey Arshavin brilliantly played in Yuri Zhirkov near the left-hand byline but striker Kerzhakov could only steer his effort wide. But it was a brief reprieve for the Czechs as Dzagoev drove at the heart of their defence to tee Konstantin Zyryanov up for a cross that was headed against the post by Kerzhakov, Dzagoev followed up to slam home the loose ball.
The CSKA Moscow midfielder should have doubled the lead just a few minutes later after another incisive Russian break out, but he flashed wastefully wide of Petr Cech’s goal.
Rezek saw a glancing header saved by Vyacheslav Malafeev at the other end but an error from Jaroslav Plasil allowed Russia to make it 2-0 in the 24th minute.
The midfielder gave away possession and Arshavin seized on it, the Arsenal player’s pass was meant for Kerzhakov but the striker’s miscontrol saw the ball reach Shirokov, who lofted over the advancing Cech.
Plasil was fortunate to get away with a clumsy push on Arshavin in the penalty area, as English World Cup final referee Howard Webb waved away the appeals.
Having been second best for much of the opening stanza the Czechs halted Russia’s momentum in the 52nd minute as Pilar struck. Plasil produced a superb pass to cut the Russian defence, allowing diminutive Pilar to round Malafeev and find the net.
Arshavin’s artistry meant Russia remained a threat at and Dzagoev effectively killed the game off when Pavlyuchenko seized on a loose ball to set up the midfielder to plant a firm shot beyond Cech.
Pavlyuchenko then put a gloss on the win as he tricked his way into the box before firing into the roof of the net.
Russia: Malafeev, Aniukov, Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev (Kokorin 84), Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 73), Arshavin.
Czech Republic: Cech, Gebre Selassie, Hubnik, Sivok, Kadlec, Plasil, Jiracek (Petrzela 75), Pilar, Rosicky, Rezek (Hubschman 46), Baros (Lafata 85). Referee: H Webb (England).