Reshuffled Russia goalless in Graz
Austria 0-0 Russia
An unfamiliar-looking Russia side were held to a goalless draw by a resolute Austrian team at the Arnold Schwarzenegger stadium in Graz.
Georgi Yartsev was forced to field an experimental lineup against Austria with key players Viktor Onopko, Sergei Ignashevitch, Dmitri Loskov and Rolan Gusev injured and FC Porto's Dmitri Alenichev preparing for Wednesday's meeting with AS Monaco FC in the UEFA Champions League final.
Two new caps
Vadim Evseev and Roman Sharonov were joined by debutants Aleksei Bugaev and Aleksandr Anyukov in defence. Aleksei Smertin and Aleksandr Mostovoi were paired together in the centre of midfield while Aleksandr Panov, who returned to the squad after more than two years, partnered Dmitri Bulykin up front.
The new-look side took time to settle, and struggled to create chances in an even first 45 minutes. It was Panov who had the first attempt on goal as he chested the ball down and shot narrowly wide from just outside the penalty area. The small striker was in the thick of the action again minutes later as he broke into the area on to Bulykin's flick but failed to finish.
There was much more danger in Russia's set-pieces, with Andrei Karyaka coming close twice. First he stroked the ball just wide of the near post after Evseev earned a free-kick on the left and then he forced a save out of Austrian goalkeeper Thomas Mandl from Mostovoi's short free-kick.
Austria also had chances, with Matthias Dollinger coming close with a free-kick and Marcus Schopp's fine low cross being cleared by Anyukov. Russia made four substitutions at the break, with goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov making way for Vyacheslav Malafeev, Dmitri Kiritchenko and Aleksandr Kerzhakov coming into the attack and Marat Izmailov replacing Petr Bystrov on the right.
The changes galavanised Russia, and Yartsev's side took the upper hand after the restart. Sharonov picked up an injury early in the second half, forcing the versatile Evgeni Aldonin to come on and Smertin to drop back into defence.
Russia produced a flowing display after the break, but it was Austria's Mario Haas who came the closest to scoring as he broke away from Smertin and shot centimetres wide of the far post.
Mostovoi then found Kiritchenko on the edge of the area but the striker's hard low shot was saved by Mandl. Vladislav Radimov came on for Mostovoi minutes later and went close with a curled free-kick that forced the Austria goalkeeper to save at the near post.
The best chance of the game came when Kerzhakov played the ball short for Izmailov by the right side of the area and the FC Lokomotiv Moskva midfield player fed Radimov, whose shot look destined for a far corner only to be turned away by Mandl. Despite the blank scoresheet, there were some plus points for Yartsev, particularly Anyukov's successful debut, Izmailov's creativity and Kariaka's relentless energy.