Group A

Russia overwhelms Czech Republic

ESPN.com news services

WROCLAW, Poland -- Alan Dzagoev scored a goal in each half in Russia's masterful display of attacking soccer to beat the Czech Republic 4-1 in their European Championship Group A opener Friday.

Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov gave Russia a 2-0 halftime lead before Vaclav Pilar's goal in the 52nd minute gave the Czechs brief hopes of a comeback.

Dzagoev replied in the 80th minute with his second goal, and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added a fourth in the 82nd.

"We are quite happy," Russian manager Dick Advocaat said. "When you score four goals in an international game it's a good result. At 2-1 it was difficult and maybe a better team might have scored against us. There were moments where we should have been sharper. For a first game we're happy."

Russia, a surprise semifinalist four years ago, showed it has the potential to go even further this time.

Advocaat had said before the match he considered his team an outsider for the title, but he may have to revise his opinion after the emphatic victory. Of course, Russia is unlikely to meet many defenses as accommodating as the Czech back four.

"The Czechs left some space, which made us dangerous," Advocaat said.

After weathering a tough opening 10 minutes, Russia settled into its fluid passing game and tore apart the Czech defense.

Dzagoev sent home a loose ball after Konstantin Zyryanov floated a cross to the far side and Aleksandr Kerzhakov's header hit the goal post and bounced to the CSKA Moscow midfielder in the 15th minute.

Dzagoev should have scored again minutes later, but he blasted his shot wide after Kerzhakov found him free on the right side.

Shirokov made no such mistake in the 24th minute when he ran onto a diagonal pass from the left by Andrei Arshavin and cleverly lifted the ball over Petr Cech's desperate dive for his seventh intentional goal.

After Russian chances early in the second half went off-target, the Czechs replied. Pilar beat the offsides trap to run onto a pass from Petr Jiracek, get around Vyacheslav Malafeev and slide the ball home in the 52nd minute.

And after Kerzhakov missed two more good chances, Czech Republic right back Theodor Gebre Selassie nearly scored a spectacular equalizer in the 72nd. His powerful right volley went into the side netting, and Tomas Rosicky came close with a low shot that Malafeev saved.

But Russia then stepped it up a gear as Dzagoev slammed home another shot after a pass from Pavlyuchenko and Pavlyuchenko, on for Kerzhakov, held off three Czech defenders and drove a rising shot past Cech.

"We lost the ball again, we were losing strength and the opponent punished us for this," Czech Republic manager Michal Bilek said. "Russia has very good combinations in midfield, they are very strong there. This result is very impressive for Russia. There are two more matches and they will be equally difficult for us."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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