The 3-1 victory came as a relief for the European champions, who had slumped to a 1-0 defeat in Turkey last Saturday, but their performance looked embarrassing at times.
"We saw what's still missing and that's experience," said the new coach, Erich Ribbeck, who took over after Berti Vogts stepped down last month after intense media pressure. "We're a young team, and we need to learn."
Ribbeck picked several untested players, the result being a shaky defensive display, and, without some brilliant saves from Oliver Kahn, things may have been much worse.
The world champions, France, are also suffering a slump, and managed only two goals against tiny Andorra. But like his England counterpart, Glenn Hoddle, the French coach, Roger Lemerre, took solace in three points. "We have got closer to Ukraine and that's what counts," he said.
With no points from three games, Russian hopes of qualification from France's group are in serious danger. They were beaten 1-0 by Iceland in Reykjavik thanks to an own goal by Yuri Kovtun two minutes from time. The Russian Football Union meets next Thursday, and the futures of the coach, Analoty Byshovets, and the RFU president, Vyacheslav Koloskov, are almost certain to be debated.Reuse content