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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Beats Georgia, Nabs Playoff Spot

APRussia's Sergei Ignashevich, left, fighting for the ball with Georgia goalkeeper George Lomania in their Group 10 Euro 2004 qualifier at Lokomotiv Stadium on Saturday.
Russia did what it had to do Saturday, beating Georgia 3-1, but it will still have to take part in a playoff for a place in the 2004 European Championships.

Georgy Yartsev's side showed strength, skill and unity (and also some Unity), but Switzerland's 2-0 victory against Ireland left the Russians in the playoff position in Group 10.

Despite falling behind within the first three minutes and a not totally convincing first half, Russia -- through goals from Dmity Bulykin, Yegor Titov and Dmitry Sychyov -- overran the Georgian side.

Russia will find out Monday which team it will face in the two-leg playoffs. At the worst it could be Spain, Turkey or Holland. Russia should have an even to good chance if it has to face Wales, Scotland, Norway, Croatia or Slovenia.

The most interesting matchup, however, on and off the field, would be a match against Latvia, hardly a soccer power in Soviet days, which has made the playoffs for the first time in its history.

Political shenanigans and flag waving would likely reach fever pitch if the two countries are drawn together.

Apart from the focus it would put on the deep divisions over Latvia's treatment of its native Russian population, the matches, which will take place Nov. 13 and Nov. 17, just a few weeks before the parliamentary elections, would likely provide even more opportunity for grandstanding to judge from the blatant political advertising that went on during Saturday's qualifier.

Apart from the gaggle of politicians at the match on Saturday -- which followed on from the football lovefest by Unity leaders Sergei Shoigu and Boris Gryzlov at the last home match -- all the fans were given leaflets sponsored by Unity, with the words of the national anthem on them.

None of the crowd needed any help from Unity with the Georgian anthem though. They all stood up and booed loudly in unison.

Alexander Iashvili soon silenced the 30,000 capacity crowd -- and maybe turned a presidential cortege in its tracks -- in the third minute with a shot that ricocheted off Sergei Ignashevich, off the post and past a furious Sergei Ovchinnikov.

Before the match, NTV had reported that President Vladimir Putin was to attend the match. He never turned up.

Quite a few people in the crowd in the first half were probably thinking they should have stayed home as well as Georgia, constantly on the counterattack, looked the side more likely to score again.

But Bulykin, without a goal since his hat trick last month against Switzerland and obviously having decided to score only when he plays for his country, headed in the equalizer from a Rolan Gusev cross after 30 minutes.

In first-half injury time, Titov, who had come into the side as a replacement for the injured Alexei Smertin, scored with a shot from a crowded penalty area after Alexander Kerzhakov had his chance saved to give Russia a not completely convincing lead.

The second half was a different story as substitutes Marat Izmailov, Yevgeny Aldonin and Sychyov stiffened the side and put constant pressure on the Georgian goal.

Izmailov ran rings round the defense down the left wing, and in the 73rd minute he teamed up with Dmitry Sennikov for a smart one-two in the penalty area before clipping the ball to Sychyov, who smacked in a volley for a virtuoso goal and Russia's third.