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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
Russia labour to win over Tunisia
Egor Titov is swamped after giving Russia the lead
Egor Titov is swamped by celebrating team-mates
Russia 2-0 Tunisia

Russia underlined their status as Group H favourites with a hard-earned victory over Tunisia in Kobe.

But they were made to work for their win by a Tunisian team which had not read the script marking them out as group whipping boys.

GRAPHIC ANALYSIS

Yegor Titov's accurate strike and Valery Karpin's penalty took Russia to the top of the group, with Tunisia suggesting they will test Belgium and Japan.

Russia's willingness to shoot from long-range saw Andrei Solomatin's stinging 14th minute drive spilled by Ali Boumnijel who grabbed the ball ahead of Ruslan Pimenov.

Open Quote
I'm dissatisfied with the way we played in our penalty area and in their penalty area
Close Quote
Russia coach Oleg Romantsev
Lokomotiv Moscow striker Pimenov then sent an acrobatic bicycle kick straight at Boumnijel.

But it was Tunisia who almost took a bizarre 20th-minute lead.

Russian defenders Yuri Nikiforov and Yuri Kovtun tangled as they intercepted Slim Ben Achour's through pass.

Nikiforov's clearance struck Kovtun and the ball rolled inches wide of the unguarded goal with keeper Ruslan Nigmatullin stranded.

Russia got plenty of width in their play, providing a plentiful supply of crosses, but Hatem Trabelsi and Radhi Jaidi were towers at the heart of the Tunisian defence.

Egor Titov is congratulated by Igor Semshov
Yegor Titov celebrates his opening goal

Trabelsi, who plays for Dutch club Ajax, then stretched into a timely challenge to nick the ball away from Vladimir Beschastnykh.

In first-half injury time, Nigmatullin had to dash from his goal to grab Ziad Jaziri's through-ball just ahead of Khaled Badra, while at the other end Titov lashed a first-time shot inches wide of the post.

Half-time substitute Dmitri Kokhlov almost made an instant impact, rising to head a free-kick just wide with his first touch.

MATCH FACTS
59mins: Titov fires Russia ahead
64mins:Karpin penalty makes it 2-0

Tunisia twice almost nosed ahead, first Slim Ben Achour thumped a shot inches wide, and Karpin bravely put his head in to nick Badra's cross away from Sellimi.

Pimenov then went close, volleying into the side-netting from a corner.

Russia took the lead on 58 minutes with a helping hand from Tunisian keeper Boumnijel, whose sloppy throw-out was intercepted by Dmitry Sychev.

The ball was worked in to Titov who slotted in an accurate shot from the edge of the box.

Russia took an even firmer grip on the game five minutes later when Jaidi's foul on Sychev gave Karpin the opportunity to score from the penalty spot.

Tunisia showed plenty of willing spirit to try and find a route back into the game, but poor finishing let them down as a determined Russian defence held firm.



Russia: Ruslan Nigmatullin, Yuri Kovtun, Yuri Nikiforov, Andrei Solomatin, Igor Semshov (Dmitri Kokhlov 45), Viktor Onopko, Valery Karpin, Yegor Titov, Vladimir Beschastnykh (Dmitry Sychyov 55), Ruslan Pimenov, Marat Izmailov (Dmitri Alenichev 78).
Subs not used:Stanislav Cherchesov, Igor Chugainov, Vyacheslav Dayev, Alexander Filimonov, Alexander Kerzhakov, Alexander Mostovoi, Sergei Semak, Dmitry Sennikov, Alexei Smertin.

Booked: Semshov, Alenichev.

Goals: Titov 59, Karpin 64 pen.

Tunisia: Ali Boumnijel, Khaled Badra (Ali Zitouni 83), Mohamed Mkacher, Ziad Jaziri, Hatem Trabelsi, Hassene Gabsi (Zoubeir Beya 67), Adel Sellimi (Imed Mhadhebi 67), Raouf Bouzaiene, Riadh Bouazizi, Radhi Jaidi, Slim Ben Achour.
Subs not used: Hassen Bejaoui, Jose Clayton, Kaies Ghodbane, Ahmed Jaouachi, Riadh Jelassi, Hamdi Marzouki, Mourad Melki, Emir Mkademi, Tarek Thabet.

Booked: Gabsi, Jaziri.

Attendance: 30,957

Referee: Peter Prendergast (Jamaica).


MATCH STATS
  Russsia Tunisia
Corners (1st half) 1 4
Corners (2nd half) 3 3
Fouls committed 16 13
Caught offside 1 2
Shots on target 11 3
Shots off target 13 8
Hit woodwork (back into play) 0 0
Yellow cards 2 1
Red cards 0 0
STOPPAGE TIME
First half - 2 mins Second half - 2 mins


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's David Oates
"Russia were rarely troubled"
BBC Sport's Matt Davies
"The referee played a key role"
Tunisia's Ziad Jaziri
"We lost our concentration"
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GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1




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