Wroclaw, Poland – Russia asserted its dominance in Group A in Euro 2012 on Friday, as Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov scored in the first 24 minutes of a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic at Municipal Stadium.
Dzagoev scored in the 15th minute and Shirokov followed in the 24th, as Russia claimed the top spot in the group after the first day of the tournament hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
Vaclav Pilar pulled the Czech Republic within a goal early in the second half, but Dzagoev scored his second goal in the 79th and Roman Pavlyuchenko finished the scoring in the 82nd for Russia.
"When you score four goals against the Czech Republic," said Russia coach Dick Advocaat, "it's a very good result, but we should have scored more.
"At 2-1 it was difficult, and we have to improve in that regard, we have to be sharper."
Co-host Poland tied Greece, 1-1, to open the tournament Friday, and both teams are two points behind Russia in the group.
Russia scored the opener inside 15 minutes when Dzagoev finished off a rebound inside the area. Konstantin Zyryanov played a key role in the build up when he sent a cross in from the left that Aleksandr Kerzhakov headed off the post.
The ball bounced off the post into space in the area, and Dzagoev hammered the ball back to the left post to leave Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech stranded.
Russia added to its lead under 10 minutes later when playmaker Andrei Arshavin thread a pass through traffic into the right side of the box for Shirokov, who beat Cech to the ball and chipped the goalie to the far post.
The Czech Republic pulled a goal back early after half, as Jaroslav Plasil fed Pilar, who rounded Russian goalkeeper Vyatcheslav Malafeev in the 52nd minute, then slotted into an empty net.
The Czech goal put the result in doubt, but Russia continued to create chances off the counter only to watch Kerzhakov miss wide on three occasions.
Russia nearly paid the price for its wasteful finishing, as Tomas Rosicky took a hard low shot that forced a diving save from Malafeev, who did well to cover up the ball with Milan Baros waiting to deposit a loose ball into the net with just 15 minutes left in normal time.
The Russians quickly erased any doubt about the game, however, as Pavlyuchenko set up Dzagoev in the 79th, and notched his own goal three minutes later. The Russians scored four goals in a Euro finals game for the first time.
"They're a great team, with great technique, great combinations, and they showed us ... that they're a very good side," Czech coach Michal Bilek said.
Group A resumes Tuesday, when the Czech Republic plays Greece and Poland plays Russia.