Lacklustre Russia held in Azerbaijan

BAKU - Andrei Arshavin was on target as Russia were held to a 1-1 draw by Azerbaijan in their final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

With Russia already assured of finishing second in Group Four and Azerbaijan having lost all hope of qualifying for next year's finals in South Africa, the match lacked the usual intensity.

Russia captain Arshavin opened the scoring in the 13th minute, side-footing into an empty goal after Azeri keeper Kamran Agayev stopped Alan Dzagoyev's shot from close range.

The Azeris missed several chances before former CSKA Moscow striker Vagif Javadov levelled the score with a long-range effort shortly after the interval.

The visitors were awarded a questionable penalty by English referee Howard Webb 10 minutes from time but Sergei Ignashevich fired straight at Agayev from the spot.

Arsenal forward Arshavin, one of the few Russians who looked unhappy with a draw, was twice denied by Agayev in the second half.

Germany won the group and booked a ticket to South Africa when they beat Russia 1-0 in Moscow on Saturday, sending the Russians into next month's two-legged playoff.

Russia coach Guus Hiddink rested several top players, including all six who were on yellow cards and would have missed the play-off's first leg if booked in Baku.

Hiddink was not too critical of his players.

"Obviously, it was difficult to motivate the team with little to play for," the Dutchman told reporters.

"We now must regroup and concentrate on the playoff. No matter who we face, it won't be an easy task."

The match involving two former Soviet republics was marred by a clash between rival fans at the end of the first half when some 300 Russian supporters insulted the home crowd before riot police stepped in to break up the fight.