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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, Wales Play to Unsightly Draw

ReutersWales' Ryan Giggs, left, gesturing as he stands over Russia's Vadim Yevseyev during their playoff match in Moscow on Saturday.
No goals, two of its best and most experienced players out and more hooligan troubles. It was a rough night for the Russian team.

A disappointing 0-0 draw with Wales at Lokomotiv Stadium on Saturday means Russia now needs to get at least a draw or win in front of 75,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Wednesday.

In front of 30,000 in Moscow, the Russians never clicked into gear. There were a number of goal chances, but the Welsh team, playing with only one forward up front, defended stoutly, happy to play for the draw as it had one of its best games under coach Mark Hughes, hassling and harrying the Russians on a very frustrating night for Russian coach Georgy Yartsev's team.

"Wales got what they wanted," said a disappointed Yartsev. "And they will have the advantage in the return match."

The coach surprised many with the lineup, picking Marseille's Dmitry Sychyov instead of Alexander Kerzhakov, and Dmitry Loskov instead of Rolan Gusev, neither of whom impressed. Sychyov was swapped for Marat Izmailov for the second half, and Gusev came on for Alexei Smertin. But Russia passed itself into inertia, constantly leaving the last shot for far too long.

Smertin came closest to the goal Russia needed to bring to Cardiff, hitting a half volley from a corner just before the break that goalie Paul Jones just tipped over the bar.

"We're obviously delighted, but it is only half way," Hughes said after the game. "We've had false dawns before. We don't want any more glorious failures."

Russia's task in the return leg was made even harder after its experienced midfield star Alexander Mostovoi and goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov picked up yellow cards, meaning they will miss the match in Cardiff.

Yartsev was especially annoyed at Ovchinnikov's suspension after the goalkeeper rashly got himself booked for running after Darren Barnard, who had taken a shot after the halftime whistle.

The game became increasingly ill-tempered as the night wore on, and Russia vainly looked for a goal. Robbie Savage hassled and riled the Russian defense persistently.

Ryan Giggs was felled by a tackle from Vadim Yevseyev which coach Mark Hughes called "terrible" and drew protests from a number of Welsh players. The Manchester United star later meted out his own revenge with a blow to Yevseyev's face -- although the defender did fall as if hit by a meteorite -- that the referee missed but may be dealt with later by UEFA, European soccer's governing body.

After the match, one Russian journalist asked Hughes if he was going to tell his players off for their really bad behavior, but the translator tactfully decided not to translate that bit.

Apart from losing impetus on the field, Russia also had trouble off it. Another big fine is likely after fans set off flares and firecrackers in the crowd and then threw them, along with other projectiles, onto the pitch, forcing the referee to stop the match a number of times while two soldiers with red buckets went around extinguishing the still-burning flares.

Outside the stadium, Russian fans continued on their quest to build up a reputation for being the least hospitable fans in Eastern Europe. After attacking Irish fans last year, they decided to go for the Welsh.

Around 400 fans gathered near the Rossiya hotel, where the Welsh fans were staying, throwing firecrackers, Interfax reported.

Hooligans "lit fireworks and threw bottles," a police spokesman told RIA Novosti.

No one was hurt in that incident, but eight Welsh fans were injured, and five hospitalized after an attack on Nikolskaya Ulitsa near the Kremlin.

Russian fans may find things as inhospitable in Cardiff, where local fans have as much of a reputation.