Soccer-Russia back on track in Euros after 1-0 win over Finland


Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group B - Finland v Russia - Saint Petersburg Arena, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 16, 2021 Russia's Rifat Zhemaletdinov in action Pool via REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) -Russia's Aleksei Miranchuk scored a stunning first half stoppage time winner against Finland on Wednesday to put his team's Euro 2020 campaign back on track with a 1-0 victory that keeps Group B wide open.

Man-of-the-match Miranchuk scooped his shot into the far top corner as Russia, unbeaten against Finland since their first meeting in 1912, made amends for their loss to Belgium with their first win in their last seven matches at Euro finals.

"We got the job done, we are moving forward," Miranchuk said. "We need to capitalize on our moments. This is a tournament that features good teams, so each moment can be a unique chance. You have to score."

The Finns, winners 1-0 over Denmark in their first game that was marked by Christian Eriksen's heart attack on the pitch, almost made the perfect start when Joel Pohjanpalo's third minute header beat the Russian keeper but was ruled offside after a VAR review.

It was Russia, fired up by the home crowd, who took control in the first half, with Finland sitting back and soaking up the pressure.

The visitors waited for the occasional break and both Pohjanpalo and Teemu Pukki tested goalkeeper Matvei Safonov.

An injury to Mario Fernandes after a rough fall in the 26th minute did not shift Russia's focus and his replacement Vyacheslav Karavaev almost tapped in a cutback at the far post minutes after coming on.

Their dominance finally paid off in stoppage time thanks to a piece of magic from Miranchuk, who took on two defenders on the right, changed direction and scooped the ball into the far corner with a superb left-footed effort with Russia's first shot on target.

The Finns shot out of the blocks after the break with Pukki carving out two chances early on.

That, however, came with a risk as it opened up spaces for Russia, who were a threat on the break with Rifat Zhemaletdinov's low shot veering just wide in the 67th and Daler Kuzyaev's curled effort forcing a superb save from keeper Lukas Hradecky as Finland's energy gradually faded.

"A stinging loss," Pohjanpalo said. "We had our chances, and I guess the goal was somewhat offside, can't help it. Too bad our defensive display wasn't enough for a clean sheet this time.

"Now all we can do is look ahead and go beat Belgium," he added.

Russia held on to earn three points, with Stanislav Cherchesov's side up to second in the standings on three, ahead of Finland thanks to the head-to-head result. Belgium, who beat Russia 3-0 in their opener, top the group ahead of their game against Denmark on Thursday. Russia then play Denmark on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Milla Nissi and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber, Writing by Karolos GrohmannEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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