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Valeron gives Spain full points

June 13, 2004 02:18 IST

Juan Carlos Valeron came off the bench to give Spain a 1-0 victory over Russia in their Euro 2004 opener on Saturday, restoring the established order in Group A after Greece's stunning win over Portugal.

Spain dominated the first half, with Ruben Baraja ruling the midfield and Vicente and Joseba Etxeberria baffling the Russian defence on the wings.

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Russia collected a rash of yellow cards as they tried to contain the Spaniards and defender Roman Sharonov was sent off late in the game for his second bookable offence. The match turned when Inaki Saez brought on Valeron and Xabi Alonso in the 59th minute.

A minute later, Carles Puyol crossed low from the right and Valeron's first contribution was to place the ball calmly past Sergei Ovchinnikov.

It was only the second time Spain had won their opening match in the European Championship since the group phase was introduced in 1980, while Russia went a record-equalling eighth successive match without a win at the finals.

A better start looked certain for Spain this time as they came out of the blocks with real conviction.

An opening goal almost came in the second minute, when Baraja found Raul in space with a deft through ball. The striker turned to make space but his shot squeezed just wide.

Russia's first attack came in the 16th minute when Marat Izmailov took a pass from Alexander Mostovoi and crossed for Dmitry Bulykin to shoot tamely.

Vicente's drive brought Spain close again after 36 minutes as he rode one late challenge on the edge of the area and crossed.

Morientes forced a fine save from Ovchinnikov with a point-blank header and Etxeberria missed the chance to finish off.

Russia were not out of it, though, and Dmitry Alenichev gave Spain a couple of nervous moments at the end of the second half.

The bustling midfielder tricked his way past two defenders on the right of the area to bring a good save from Iker Casillas and the keeper had to look lively again almost immediately when Alenichev cut inside and shot low to the near post.

Raul should have done better than to head wide when an Etxeberria cross picked him out unmarked seven minutes into the second half.

Morientes was substituted after failing to meet another Etxeberria cross but Valeron had more luck when he converted simply after Puyol's good work.

Russia did not create a single chance to equalise and could have no complaints as Spain held on for a deserved victory.

Teams:

Spain (4-4-2): 23-Iker Casillas; 5-Carles Puyol, 3-Carlos Marchena, 6-Ivan Helguera, 15-Raul Bravo; 17-Joseba Etxeberria, 4-David Albelda, 8-Ruben Baraja (16-Xabi Alonso 59), 14-Vicente; 10-Fernando Morientes (21-Juan Carlos Valeron 59), 7-Raul (captain) (9-Fernando Torres 78).

Russia (4-5-1): 1-Sergei Ovchinnikov; 16-Vadim Yevseyev, 4-Alexei Smertin (captain), 13-Roman Sharonov, 17-Dmitry Sennikov; 22-Yevgeny Aldonin (3-Dmitry Sychev 68), 8-Rolan Gusev (2-Vladislav Radimov 46), 15-Dmitry Alenichev, 10-Alexander Mostovoi, 7-Marat Izmailov (5-Andrei Karyaka 74); 9-Dmitry Bulykin.

Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland)

Linesmen: Francesco Buragina (Switzerland), Rudolf Kappeli (Switzerland)

Kevin Fylan
Source:
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