World Cup qualifying: Russia reach finals despite 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan
Russia secured their place at next summer's World Cup by the narrowest of margins as they drew 1-1 in Azerbaijan.
Last Updated: 15/10/13 9:00pm
Russia secured their place at next summer's World Cup in Brazil by the narrowest of margins as they drew 1-1 in Azerbaijan.
Fabio Capello's side knew a point would be enough to seal top spot in Group F ahead of Portugal and qualification for the finals for the first time since 2002.
It had looked like Russia would finish their qualifying campaign with a win as Roman Shirokov gave them a 15th-minute lead, which lasted until the final minute of the game, when Vagif Javadov equalised for the hosts.
Azerbaijan were already down to 10 men by then after Maksim Medvedev had been shown a straight red card for a foul.
Russia almost took the lead inside a minute as Alexander Kerzhakov turned inside the area and fired just wide.
The home side responded, Rufat Dadasov shooting over from eight yards when he should have done better.
Russia's Alexander Samedov appealed for a penalty in the 10th minute but was instead booked for diving.
The visitors only had to wait for another five minutes before taking the lead, Samedov this time impressing with a precision through ball that Shirokov collected and beat Kamran Agayev.
Russia continued to press, Shirokov and Vasili Berezutsky trying their luck before Aleksei Kozlov's 25-yarder was tipped round the post by Agayev in the 37th minute.
The pattern continued in the second half, Agayev being called upon three times in as many minutes.
First the Azerbaijan keeper parried a shot from Kerzhakov, then he kept out Aleksandr Kokorin's effort with his feet before thwarting Oleg Shatov.
The hosts were being allowed only the slightest glimpse of goal, and Rauf Aliyev could not find the target with his long-range effort.
Russia threatened again in the 71st minute, Dmitri Kombarov this time shooting wide from inside the box.
Azerbaijan's chances of getting anything from the game looked even slimmer two minutes later when Medvedev slid in late on Kerzhakov and was given his marching orders.
Russia almost sealed the three points in the 88th minute as Shirokov's cross found substitute Pavel Mamaev but his header was straight at Agayev.
And two minutes later the hosts found their equaliser. Javadov had only been on the field for seven minutes when he met Mahir Shukurov's cross with his head.
A 3-0 victory for Portugal against Luxembourg meant they closed to within one point of Russia, but it was job done as far as Capello was concerned.
Azerbaijan finished their campaign in fourth place, five points behind Israel.