Aleksei Miranchuk scored the only goal as Russia kick-started their Euro 2020 challenge in St Petersburg with a 1-0 win against Finland.
Atalanta forward Miranchuk’s decisive strike came in first-half stoppage time and victory followed Saturday’s opening 3-0 Group B defeat to Belgium.
Finland had upset Denmark 1-0 in their opening game, in a match overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s collapse, but, although they improved in the second half against Russia, they failed to seriously trouble Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.
Russia will be relieved to be up and running – they also extended their unbeaten record against the Finns to 18 matches – but they were far from convincing in a game which was low on quality.
The home side were given an early let-off when Joel Pohjanpalo’s flying third-minute header was ruled out for offside by a marginal VAR decision.
Russia’s first chance came in the 10th minute, but after being picked out by Miranchuk’s pass inside the area, Magomed Ozdoev blazed over from 10 yards.
Finland were carved open again soon after when Artem Dzyuba’s low shot hit a post, although the flag had already gone up for another offside.
Russia dominated first-half possession, but Finland, as they were in their opening win against Denmark, were compact and organised in defence.
Full-back Jere Uronen defended bravely and brilliantly when sliding in at the far post to deny Vyacheslav Karavaev a scoring chance.
The Finns’ white wall was breached by the game’s first shot on target in the second minute of added time at the end of the first half.
Miranchuk played a one-two with skipper Dzyuba just inside the box and dinked a curling left-footed finish into goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky’s top right-hand corner.
Norwich striker Teemu Pukki was denied by Igor Diveev’s last-ditch tackle at the start of the second period as Finland tried to respond.
Pukki saw another effort comfortably saved and, as the second half unfolded, Russia were content to protect their lead and hit their opponents on the break.
But Finland lacked a cutting edge to cash in on their increased possession and Russia comfortably saw the game out.
Both sides can still progress to the round of 16. Russia will play Denmark in their final group game on Monday and Finland face Belgium.
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