Macedonia battled and even outplayed Russia in the 1st half but the only goal of the game was scored just before halftime by Russian midfielder Igor Semshov.
Most Macedonian fans will be satisfied with the debut of new manager John Toshack. The Macedonian side was organized and conceded one goal from a slight deflection for a minimal loss against Russia. Toshack finally decided to play the players at their natural positions and Macedonia took the game to Russia in the 1st half. Russia did score a goal just before halftime to take an undeserving lead going into the break. However, the veteran Russian side played much better in the 2nd half and created several chances but they were denied each time by the Macedonian keeper Martin Bogatinov.
In the 1st half, the first real opportunity of the game fell for Ivan Trickovski whose shot from distance was saved by the Russian keeper who punched the ball and Macedonia was awarded a throw in from the right side. Macedonia continued the solid play with defender Vance Sikov making several important interventions before Trickovski had another chance in the 9th minute but his shot from the edge of the area went just wide of the left goal post. Goran Pandev made a nice run in the 19th minute before he tried to attempt a shot but it was blocked before the Russian keeper easily gathered the ball. A minute later, Russia created their first real opportunity of the game but the shot by Aleksandr Kerzhakov went wide of the goal as Bogatinov had the near post covered. Pandev tried to do too much in the 21st minute and eventually lost the ball in a dangerous position which allowed Russia to execute a counter attack but Sikov came up big and made a nice sliding clearance to avert the danger. Igor Semshow wasted a good opportunity in the 25th minute when he mishit a shot which allowed Bogatinov to make an easy save. The next five minutes was all Macedonia who peppered the Russian goal with several shots but none could reach the back of the net. Pandev seemed to be in a good position in the 26th minute inside the area but an alert Russian defender cleared the ball as Pandev was getting ready to fire a shot on goal. Agim Ibraimi tried his luck in the 27th minute from distance but his shot was bobbled by the shaky Russian keeper who then gathered the ball as there was no Macedonian player near the goal looking to score on the rebound. A minute later, Ivan Trickovski took a free kick from about 28 meters but it went over the goal. Mirko Ivanovski attempted his first shot in the 30th minute after being set up by Pandev but his left footed shot went well over the goal.
Russia then had a dangerous moment in the 36th minute when Yuri Zhirkov made a nice run inside the area and the ball then reached his teammate Igor Semshov but Sumulikoski came up big and won the ball before making the clearance. In the 37th minute, Russia made a clearance that fell perfectly for Ibraimi but his powerful volley from outside of the area went wide of the goal. Russia created their best chance in the 39th minute when Kerzhakov hit the outside of the post with his header following a free kick played in the box by Andrei Arshavin. The huge chances didn’t stop as going the other way, Pandev was through on goal but his finishing was poor and his effort was saved by the Russian keeper. Pandev tried to score on the rebound and went down looking for a penalty but the referee waved play on. Macedonia wanted a penalty but not even a minute later, Macedonia found itself down 1:0 after Igor Semshov’s shot from the edge of the area took a slight deflection off of Sikov before going past Bogatinov. Just before halftime, Macedonia had another chance when the Russian keeper bobbled another shot from distance, this time by Sumulikoski, and Ivanovski had a chance on the rebound but he whiffed on the shot but the ball then found Trickovski whose effort went over the goal.
In the 2nd half, with the introduction of striker Roman Pavluchenko, Russia became more dangerous and began to play better football. The first chance of the half fell for Kerzhakov whose shot was saved by Bogatinov. Macedonia came close to scoring the equalizer in the 54th minute but Sikov’s powerful free kick was saved by the Russian keeper before Mirko Ivanovski tried to score on the rebound but he was offside. Goran Popov almost gifted Russia a goal in the 60th minute when he made a terrible pass that almost reached a Russia player who barely missed the ball from close vicinity to the goal. The substitute Pavluchenko tested Bogatinov in the 61st minute but Martin was up to the challenge and made another save. However, the best save for Bogatinov came in the 64th minute when he made a wonderful save to deny a powerful header from Russian player Dmitri Torbinskiy. Yuri Zhirkov showed great skill on that play by easily getting past Daniel Georgievski and Agim Ibraimi before his cross reached Torbinskiy whose header was saved nicely by Bogatinov. The Macedonian players were not as active at this stage of the game it seemed unlikely that Macedonia would score a goal. Pandev had a chance in the 76th minute but his shot lacked power and was easily saved by the Russian keeper. In the 81st minute, Russia almost added another goal but Torbinskiy’s effort went just wide of the right goal post. The game was slowing down but out of nowhere, Trickovski showed nice skill to create some space in the 88th minute but his attempt went well over the goal. The final chance for Macedonia came in the third minute of stoppage time when Popov’s shot from distance was bobbled by the Russian keeper before it went for a corner.
Highlights of the game:
Overall, Macedonia did not look inferior to Russia and even controlled action for parts of the game, especially in the 1st half. The best players for Macedonia were the keeper Bogatinov and the two CB’s in Sikov and Noveski. As for the disappointing players, Goran Popov and Mirko Ivanovski did not have their best games. Also, Noveski and Demiri picked up yellow cards during the game and it was the second yellow card for both players during the EURO 2012 qualifications so they will be suspended for the next game which will be in four days against Andorra. Pandev will also miss the Andorra game after he was given a red card soon after the final whistle. Pandev was upset at the referee for not whistling for a penalty in the 40th minute and that likely played a part in his dismissal. Toshack will have to look for more options at midfield. Sumulikoski gets heavy criticism but he was okay during this game, Demiri was pretty quiet, but there is not much depth behind those two guys. Toshack will have to convince some players with Macedonian origins to consider playing for Macedonia because the midfield must get better in order for our national team to get better results.
Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia
Referee: Bülent Yıldırım (Turkey)
Scorers: Semshov 41′
Yellow cards: Denisov 56′, Kerzhakov 61′, Shirokov 71′ (R); Demiri 61′, Sumulikoski 76′, Noveski 90′ (M).
Red Cards: Pandev 90′ (second yellow card, first yellow card came at 42′)
Russia: Malafeev; Anyukov, V. Berezutski, A. Berezutski, Zhirkov; Semshov (46′ Pavlyuchenko), Denisov, Shirokov, Zyryanov (60′ Torbinskiy); Arshavin (c), Kerzhakov (88′ Glushakov).
Macedonia: Bogatinov; Georgievski, Sikov, Noveski, Popov; Sumulikoski (85′ Muarem), Demiri; Trickovski, Pandev (c), Ibraimi (66′ Hasani); Ivanovski (75′ Trajkovski).
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