Pavlyuchenko steers Russia past Azerbaijan

MOSCOW - Goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko and Konstantin Zyryanov gave Russia a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan in their World Cup qualifier on Saturday. Striker Pavlyuchenko opened the scoring just past the half hour before laying on the second midway through the second half for midfielder Zyryanov. The win gave Russia nine points after four games to remain in second place in Group Four, a point behind leaders Germany, who were at home to Liechtenstein later on Saturday. The Russians, with Andrei Arshavin pulling the strings, dominated from the start but had trouble creating chances until Pavlyuchenko curled in a free kick from 22 metres that fooled Azeri keeper Farhad Veliyev. It was more of the same after the break before Pavlyuchenko's through pass found the unmarked Zyryanov who beat Veliyev from close range in the 71st minute. The visitors, urged on by several thousand noisy Azeri fans at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium, rarely threatened Russia keeper Igor Akinfeyev until substitute Vagif Djavadov hit the post in the last minute. It was the first match for Russia coach Guus Hiddink since also becoming Chelsea's interim manager last month and the Dutchman was not wholly satisfied with the team's performance. "It was good that we won but we could have played much better, especially in attack," Hiddink told a news conference. "Defensively we didn't have much problem until the last few minutes when we lost concentration."