England’s Group E opponents Russia and Croatia started their Euro 2008 qualifying campaigns with a goalless draw on a rainy night in Moscow. Both sides will be happy with the result given their respective problems in the build-up to the game, even though both had their chances.
The Russians came closest to scoring in an otherwise scrappy and uneventful first half after a threatening run from Andrei Arshavin after 38 minutes. The Zenit St Petersburg striker, the star man in coach Guus Hiddink’s debut victory over Latvia last month, slipped the ball left to Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, but, with the ball running away from him, the Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder could only fire high and wide.
Ivan Klasnic volleyed a clear chance well wide of the post in Croatia’s best opening of the first half. Croatia had a legitimate appeal for a second-half penalty turned down by Spanish referee Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez after substitute Mladen Petric’s shot was charged down by what appeared to be the hands of Russian defender Sergei Ignashevich.
Three minutes from the end Croatia almost grabbed a dramatic winner as Klasnic, despite the presence of three Russian defenders, hooked a volley that bounced agonisingly wide of Akinfeev’s goal.