By Dan Darby
Local hero Alexander Kerzhakov hit a hat-trick on his return to St Petersburg as Russia overcame Andorra at the Petrovsky Stadium.
Kerzhakov, who left his hometown club Zenit St. Petersburg for Sevilla during the winter, struck twice inside the first 16 minutes to put Russia on their way to a straightforward victory.
He then added a third before Dmitri Sychev completed the rout for Guus Hiddink's side.
The opener came in the seventh minute, the ball falling to Kerzhakov following a mix-up between Andorran goalkeeper Koldo Alvarez and defender Marc Bernaus with the Sevilla striker finishing with aplomb.
Another error in the Andorran defence led to Kerzhakov's second goal seven minutes later.
A searching ball from CSKA Moscow midfielder Yuri Zhirkov was misjudged by Andorra defender Marcio Vieira, allowing Kerzhakov a simple finish.
Russia should have had more in a one-sided first-half, with Andrei Arshavin hitting the side-netting and the hat-trick hungry Kerzhakov then testing the palms of Alvarez with a stinging 25-yarder.
Defender Vasili Berezutsky was next to try his luck with a solid downward header from Arshavin's corner, but Alvarez saved solidly.
Kerzhakov completed his hat-trick four minutes after half-time, scoring from close range after Alvarez had denied Konstantin Zyryanov.
Kerzhakov was replaced by Sychev four minutes later to a standing ovation, with Hiddink also bringing on Ascoli midfielder Viktor Boudianski for his international debut.
As Andorra tired, the chances began to rain in on the visitors' goal, with Dmitri Torbinsky and Budyanski both going close.
Arshavin's arrogant flick backfired after the Zenit striker had been presented with an open goal thanks to Igor Semshov's cutback.
But Arshavin made up for his error by sliding a ball through to substitute Sychev, who tucked a low shot past Alvarez.
Andorra substitute Juli Sanchez mustered up his side's only shot on goal in the 77th minute, which was deflected wide before Sychev had a strike ruled out for offside with 10 minutes remaining.
News source: sportinglife.com
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Culture news archive for 05 June' 2007.
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