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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Still Hopeful Despite Dismal Draw

PARALIMNI, Cyprus -- Unfancied Cyprus held Russia to a 1-1 draw in an action-packed group five World Cup qualifier.

After being held to a draw by Israel last time out, Russia had hoped for a convincing win Saturday to regain control of the group. The Russians poured everything into attack for the opening half hour, creating -- and missing -- several chances.

But it was the home side that took an unexpected lead in the 31st minute when striker Sinica Gogic headed home a Nick Papavassiliou corner. Russia hit back within a minute when Igor Simutenkov scored following a free kick.

Russia had most of the game in the second half but failed to break down the well-organized Cypriot defense. However, with seconds to go Alexander Mostovoi found himself unmarked three meters from the goal but shot wide.

Russia tops the standings with eight points from four games but could be overhauled when Israel, currently on seven points, visits Luxembourg. Bulgaria is third on six points.

Saturday's draw was a boost for Cyprus, which lost 3-1 at home to Bulgaria in December.

Injuries kept at least seven players out of the match, but the replacements proved up to the task.

Despite the draw, Russia will keep faith with its squad, deputy trainer Yury Syomin said Monday.

"It was the sort of slip that happens to every team," Syomin said. "We're not going to make some sort of tragedy of it."