Finland were left to rue an early goal chalked off for a marginal offside decision as they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Russia in their Euro 2020 Group B match.
Joel Pohjanpalo, who scored in the 1-0 victory against Denmark at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on Saturday – a game marked by Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest on the pitch – had the ball in the net in the fifth minute, but his wild celebrations were cut short by VAR as he was revealed to be slightly offside.
“I don’t know how far Joel was offside, but it was so close. It’s all about fine margins, and today they didn’t go our way,” the Finland captain, Paulus Arajuuri, said. “It gives you a huge energy boost when you score. And when it’s ruled out, it takes a lot of energy out of you, too.”
The Finns were undone by a goal in first-half stoppage time by Aleksei Miranchuk, and though they battled hard throughout the second half they could not find an equaliser.
Miranchuk, the man of the match, scooped his shot into the far top corner as Russia, unbeaten against Finland since their first meeting in 1912, made amends for their defeat against Belgium with their first win in their past seven matches at European Championship finals.
“We got the job done, we are moving forward,” Miranchuk said. “We need to capitalise on our moments. This is a tournament that features good teams, so each moment can be a unique chance. You have to score.”
The Finland coach Markku Kanerva said: “Unfortunately the efficiency today with the goal-scoring chances wasn’t on a high level, and the Russian defenders were able to block our shots. Overall the offensive game was OK, in the second half we had many more opportunities to control the ball for long periods, but this is not a game of statistics – it’s all about having the skill to score and to defend against chances.”
It was Russia, fired up by the home crowd, who took control in the first half, with Finland sitting back and soaking up the pressure. The visitors waited for the occasional break and Pohjanpalo and Teemu Pukki tested the goalkeeper Matvei Safonov.
An injury to Mario Fernandes after a rough fall in the 26th minute did not shift Russia’s focus and his replacement Vyacheslav Karavaev almost tapped in a cutback at the far post minutes after coming on.
Their dominance finally paid off in injury time thanks to a piece of magic from Miranchuk, who took on two defenders on the right, changed direction and scooped the ball into the far corner with a superb left‑footed effort with Russia’s first shot on target.
“A stinging loss,” Pohjanpalo said. “We had our chances, and I guess the goal was somewhat offside, can’t help it. Too bad our defensive display wasn’t enough for a clean sheet this time. Now all we can do is look ahead and go beat Belgium.”
The result moves Stanislav Cherchesov’s side up to second in the standings on three points, ahead of Finland thanks to the head-to-head result. Belgium, who beat Russia 3-0 in their opener, top the group ahead of their game against Denmark on Thursday.
Finland will now face Belgium, their toughest Group B opponents, in their final game, and depending on other results they may need a draw or a win if they are to have any hope of making it through to the knockout stage.
“Belgium is one of the strongest teams in the tournament so it’s a massive challenge for us. This team has shown before that they are able to play above their level and make their dreams come true,” Kanerva said.
Russia meanwhile confirmed that Fernandes did not sustain a spinal injury after his heavy fall in the win against Finland.
The full-back had a rough fall in the first half after an aerial duel in which he fell on his back and neck. The 30-year-old was taken off the pitch on a stretcher and taken to the hospital for scans.
“Fernandes was suspected of having a thoracic spine injury,” the Russia team said in a statement. “According to the scan results, Fernandes does not have a spinal injury. He is flying with the team to Moscow and will be under the supervision of the doctors of the Russian national team.”
Russia play Denmark in their final group game in Copenhagen on Monday.