Aleksei Miranchuk was the toast of Russia on Wednesday night as his brilliant first-half injury-time strike finished off Finland and got the Russians’ Euro 2020 campaign back on course.
Russia bounced back from their opening-match humbling at the hands of Belgium to squeeze past Finland 1-0 and grab three vital points in St Petersburg.
It was a tough result on Finland, who had defeated Denmark in their first match following Christian Eriksen’s on-field collapse.
Joel Pohjanpalo had the ball in the net for the Finns after five minutes, but good old VAR got involved to chalk it off for offside. The rest of the first half was played at breakneck speed, with opportunities at either end before Miranchuk spotted his chance to shine just before the break and curled home.
Try as they might after the interval, Finland could not find a leveller, meaning Russia move on to three points alongside the Finns and Belgium — who take on the Danes on Thursday.
The glorious strike by Miranchuk, who plays for Italian goal-hungry side Atalanta, has now blown Group B wide open, with Russia just holding the edge over the Finns in second spot on head-to-head.
Following Eriksen’s harrowing collapse, there was another big scare on Thursday in St Petersburg. The match ground to a halt when Russia’s Fernandes went for a high ball and came down heavily on the back of his neck – once again reminding us of the risks these players take. He was taken to hospital for further treatment and scans on a possible spinal injury.
With Yuri Zhirkov already ruled out for the rest of the tournament, Russia’s squad is already starting to look worryingly thin, but these three points will come as a welcome reward for a hard-fought victory.