MOSCOW, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Russia made a slow start to their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign under new manager Guus Hiddink on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 at home with Croatia in their Group E opener.
In their first official match with the Dutchman at the helm, Russia failed to capitalise on their chances on a soggy pitch at Moscow's Lokomotiv stadium in front of a near capacity 30,000-strong crowd.
Despite dropping two points, Hiddink was upbeat afterwards.
'You can never be satisfied with a draw at home but our young team gave a good account of themselves,' he said.
'We had a difficult start for the first 15-20 minutes but after we made changes in the second half I think we had the better of the play,' he added.
'We were just too excited to finish off our chances. We were also lucky with one of their free kicks that hit the bar.'
Croatia manager Slaven Bilic was happy taking a point.
'I'm very satisfied with the result, especially because we played nice football tonight,' he said afterwards.
'I think we were the better side and were closer to scoring than them. We made three or four stupid mistakes on defence in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, but apart from that, we dominated for much of the game.'
After a timid first half Russia enjoyed the better chances after the break with Andrei Arshavin going close with a crunching volley from the edge of the area and substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak just missing with a low 10-metre shot.
Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa also made a fine diving save to keep out Igor Semshov's powerful drive from close range.
At the other end, Croatia tested Igor Akinfeyev with several long-range efforts and Milan Rapaic's free kick hit the crossbar in the 50th minute.
Croatia's preparations for the match had been disrupted after Bosko Balaban, Ivica Olic and Dario Srna were expelled from the squad after leaving the team's training camp to go to a nightclub in Zagreb.
The Croats were already missing defenders Igor Tudor, Dario Simic and Josip Simunic through injury and suspension.
The Russians also had a rash of injuries to key players, including captain Alexei Smertin, top striker Alexander Kerzhakov and playmakers Yegor Titov and Dmitry Loskov.