by Andrew Collins
BRASIL 1 RUSSIA 1
Stamford Bridge, London. Monday 25th March 2013
What a superb match between Brasil and Russia this evening. Brasil displayed their usual guile, panache, força and ball trickery, whilst Russia surprised with solid attacks and concerted effort in all quarters, only let down by poor long ball passing. They had a strong start, often testing the Brasil defence, but could not quite find their way past the goalkeeper.
Brasil, in turn, couldn’t quite find it in them to mount successful assaults on the opposition in the opening stages, often being pushed back to their own half. They don’t like being on the back foot, and the pressure of doing this showed in many instances, such as when Dani Alves failed to clear the ball properly, sending it behind his own goal. Neither side would give, and the first half ended without score.
Brasil were more dominant in the second half, surging forward several times and brokering some outrageous set-pieces. Their long balls were sublime, easily beating the Russian midfield, but even with some supremely executed back-heel passing, the Russian defence blocked fantastically; the few shots that did get through were easily saved by Gabulov.
The deadlock between both equally motivated and kinetic sides only broke in the last 20 minutes, by a scrappy pinball-paddle Russian attack which finally gave them the goal they so craved – Fayzulin’s third for Russia. Brasil relentlessly counter-attacked with no doubt injured pride, sweeping in again and again like a scorching weather front, but could not cut through Russia’s well organised ice-block defence.
With three minutes to go, and Brasil’s coach Scolari out of his seat in near apoplexy, a deft and outstanding flurry on the left wing culminating in Marcelo’s inspired pass to Fred netted a last minute equaliser for the South American team.
Final score : 1-1; well deserved goals for both teams, and in a way, the perfect ending to the match. Both teams played hard, and in the main (apart from two yellow cards), fairly – a feeling mutually portrayed in the post match embrace between both coaches. Several clear missed opportunities for both sides will surely be pondered over and forensically examined in the week, but the 35,000 fans at Stamford Bridge were certainly left well satisfied after 93 minutes of engaging football.