Two late goals saw Russia beat Estonia 2-0 last night to kick-start their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, and give the Russia coach, Guus Hiddink, his first competitive victory with his new side.
After two consecutive draws, Russia badly needed three points to keep them in touch in Group E but they had to wait until the 78th minute to break through when Pavel Pogrebnyak struck from close range.
Russia hardly threatened Estonia's goal but they wrapped up the victory in stoppage time when the substitute Dmitry Sychev fired home from outside the area. Estonia finished the match with 10 men after Raio Piiroja was sent off in the 90th minute.
Russia, who now have five points, were held by Israel on Saturday, having also shared the points with Croatia.
Elsewhere in England's group, Macedonia followed up their unexpected draw against Steve McClaren's side last Saturday with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Andorra in La Vella.
Andorra beat Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier in October 2004, their only victory in a competitive game. This time, however, they were thoroughly outclassed. The Balkan side, who drew 0-0 with England in Manchester on Saturday, went 2-0 up early on. After six minutes Goran Pandev fired in a shot from just inside the penalty area, which was well saved by Koldo Alvarez. Three minutes later the Lazio striker again forced the goalkeeper into action, though this time his lobbed effort was easily caught. But in the 13th minute it was third time lucky, as a cross by Robert Petrov from the left found Pandev, who scored home from close range.
Pandev was in the thick of the action again three minutes later, this time turning provider as his centre from the right reached Nikolce Noveski. The big defender made no mistake, powering a header into the right corner of the goal. The nearest Andorra came to responding was a long- distance effort after 23 minutes from the defender Jose Manuel Ayala that failed to test Jane Nikolovski.
Things got worse for the hosts two minutes later when Toni Sivera was shown a straight red card for a foul on Alexander Mitreski. His dismissal was followed by a third goal for the visitors as Naumoski shot in from 10 yards out. On the stroke of half-time, Justo Ruiz had a rare chance for Andorra but sent a long-range attempt well wide.
The second half was an anticlimax, as both sides vied for midfield supremacy with neither goalkeeper being tested until a 78th-minute header by Goran Maznov was tipped round the post by the Andorra keeper. His team's quest for a first competition point continues with the visit of England on 28 March.
In Minsk, Sergei Kornilenko scored twice as Belarus came from behind to beat Slovenia 4-2 for an impressive first win in their Group G qualification campaign. Belarus went ahead in the 17th minute when Denis Kovba scored from Kornilenko's pass but the Slovenians levelled within 30 seconds when Bostjan Cesar drove the ball into the bottom left corner.
Klemen Lavric sent Slovenia into the half-time break 2-1 up when he headed in Robert Koren's right-wing cross in the 43rd minute. Kornilenko, assisted by Timofei Kalach-yov, levelled in the 52nd minute and put Belarus ahead with another goal on the hour.
The substitute Vladimir Korytko added a fourth goal with a free-kick in the 85th minute following a foul on Kornilenko.Reuse content