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Russia beats Azerbaijan 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

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MOSCOW (AP) -Roman Shirokov converted a late penalty Tuesday to give Russia a 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Russia was awarded the spot kick after Ali Gokdemir had fouled Vladimir Bystrov in the box, and Shirokov beat goalkeeper Kamran Agayev in the 84th minute.

Russia dominated possession in the first half and outshot Azerbaijan 11-1, but only four were on target.

"The result is three points, a victory and it is very important," Russia coach Fabio Capello said. "We had chances to score earlier in the game but we wasted them. Though, there was not only our team on the pitch but our opponents as well and they denied us from scoring. But we were lucky."

Zenit St. Petersburg striker Alexander Kerzhakov, who scored an early winner in a 1-0 win over Portugal on Friday, came close in the 11th minute but his shot bounced off a defender and was blocked by Agayev.

Agayev then blocked Alexander Kokorin's header in the 22nd minute and tipped over the crossbar Kombarov's curling free kick in the 39th. Kerzhakov hit the crossbar in the 30th.

Russia continued its domination after the break and Shirokov was close to scoring in the 73rd, but Agayev blocked his low shot near the post.

Azerbaijan's only real chance came when Gokdemir tried to lob goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in the fourth minute.

"Our opponent was stronger, first of all physically," Azerbaijan coach Berti Fogts said. "We kept on defending for a long time but finally lost. The referee gave a penalty and we have to respect that. So far, the lever of our team cannot be compared to that of the group leaders Russia and Portugal."

Russia tops Group F with a perfect 12 points from four games, scoring eight goals and with Akinfeev keeping a clean sheet in all four games.

Azerbaijan is joint last with one point.

Russia next will travel to Northern Ireland on March 22.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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