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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Roars Back to Defeat England 2-1

ReutersRussia's Roman Pavlyuchenko, center, scoring his second goal past England's Paul Robinson during a qualifying match at Luzhniki on Wednesday night.
Russia came back from behind to spectacularly beat England 2-1 at Luzhniki stadium on Wednesday, increasing its chances of reaching the European Championship.

The match unfolded peacefully on the artificial pitch, but the victory, Russia's most impressive since beating world champion France in 1999, was spoiled by violence before the game.

England went ahead in the 29th minute with a stunning volley from Wayne Rooney, although he looked suspiciously offside.

England seemed in control of the game, and few believed that Russia could come back.

Fans sent off flares in the crowd after an hour, even though they usually wait for a goal first. Less than 10 minutes after the flares had been sent off, coach Guus Hiddink's second-half substitute, Roman Pavlyuchenko, destroyed England with two goals in four minutes.

First, Pavlyuchenko scored from the spot after Konstanin Zyryanov was fouled by Rooney. The foul appeared to have taken place just outside the penalty area, but the Russian team was still awarded a penalty.

Four minutes later, Pavlyuchenko pounced to score after England goalkeeper Paul Robinson parried a shot by Zyryanov.

Russia is in third place with 21 points. If it wins the next two games against Israel and Andorra, it is guaranteed a trip to the finals in Austria and Switzerland next year.

Before the game, Russian fans unveiled a gigantic national flag that stretched along most the side of the stadium and featured a bear with sharp claws.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who attended the game, was quick to capitalize on the success, with state-owned Channel One television showing a recording of a meeting he had with players ahead of the game.

"We won the Great Patriotic War and were first to fly to space and, therefore, you must win today too," Zubkov told the players.

"You must do everything you can," he said, cutting the air with his right hand. The meeting was highly reminiscent of Soviet times, when Communist bosses met athletes ahead of important games.

Mikhail Metzel / Ap
English fans stopping by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Wednesday.
Pavlyuchenko told Channel One that the fans were rooting so well that they "have become the 12th player on our team."

"I devote these goals to my family and all fans who have come to support us," he said.

Several clashes erupted between Russian and English fans ahead of the game, and police accused the foreigners of getting drunk and stirring up trouble.

"After they arrived they went straight for the pubs and clubs. The English fans are getting drunk and provoking conflicts," a police spokesman said, Itar-Tass reported. "Police found several English fans on the street in a state of extreme intoxication overnight."

More than 20 Russian fans broke into a bar on Novy Arbat three hours before the game and attacked a group of foreigners with hockey sticks, chairs and tables before fleeing, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

Police, however, denied that any incident had taken place, Interfax reported.

Also Wednesday afternoon, Russian fans wielding flares chased a group of Englishmen across Red Square, said one of the Englishmen, Mark Perryman. "No fan whatever nationality should have to put up with that," he said.

Perryman earlier in the day joined British Ambassador Tony Brenton and other fans in placing a wreath of St. George's flag at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Police recorded five fights Tuesday night and escorted several drunken fans back to their hotels, the spokesman said.

Among the fights, four Englishmen were beaten near the VDNKh metro station as they made their way back to the Kosmos hotel, where most of the 4,500 fans who flew to Moscow for the game were staying. All four were taken to the Botkin hospital at 4:40 a.m., Interfax reported.

Also, a 33-year-old Englishman was severely beaten on Novy Arbat near the Praga restaurant and taken to the Botkin hospital with head injuries, Interfax said. A 25-year-old man has been detained in connection with the attack.

Another Englishman, aged 30 and drunk, was attacked near a restaurant, the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois, on Ulitsa Bolshaya Lubyanka, and taken to the hospital, Interfax said.

Meanwhile, Andrei Lugovoi, the former security services officer whom Britain wants to extradite for the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko, said Wednesday that he had decided to watch the game from home, even though he had obtained a ticket to the sold-out match.

Lugovoi, who is running for the State Duma with the Liberal Democratic Party, wished Russia's team well, RIA-Novosti reported. "Russia's team has major potential, and if they can realize that, it will be a victory for Russia."