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Russia edge past Portugal

Moscow: Alexander Kerzhakov scored early as Russia edged out Portugal 1-0 to earn their third consecutive win at the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign under Fabio Capello, on Friday.

Kerzhakov struck in the sixth minute after breaking clear on goal following some quick one-touch passing featuring his Zenit St Petersburg teammates Viktor Faizulin and Roman Shirokov. It was Russia’s only shot on goal in the first half. Portugal dominated possession for the rest of the match but failed to score.

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was a constant threat at the other end, having recovered from a shoulder injury sustained on Sunday while playing for his club Real Madrid, but did not get clear chances.

The Russians top Group F with nine points following comfortable wins over Northern Ireland and Israel last month while Portugal stayed in second place with six points.

In a Group B match, Italy took an early lead but were far from their best when winning a tough encounter in Armenia 3-1 to stay top. Cesare Prandelli's side went ahead after 11 minutes when Riccardo Montolivo's cross was handled by Hrayr Mkoyan and Andrea Pirlo calmly put away the penalty.

Meanwhile, Kaka scored on his Brazil comeback after a two-year absence and Oscar notched a brace as the 2014 World Cup hosts demolished Iraq 6-0 in a one-sided friendly in Sweden. (Agencies)