ST PETERSBURG: With a slick one-two and a beautiful curling shot, Aleksei Miranchuk finally gave Russia something to smile about at Euro 2020.
The left-footed playmaker produced the one moment of class in a chaotic game on Wednesday to give Russia a 1-0 win over Finland and their first points.
It blows open the section after Russia, one of nine participating nations at the Euro playing matches at home, had lost 3-0 to Belgium in their opening game at the weekend.
Finland, making their debut at a major international tournament, had beaten Denmark 1-0 in Copenhagen on Saturday, a game completely overshadowed by Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.
Here it was Russia’s Fernandes, the Brazilian-born CSKA Moscow right-back, who provided an injury scare.
The 30-year-old went up for a high ball in the Finland box in the first half and came down awkwardly, the back of his neck taking the full force of the landing.
He needed to be stabilised and was stretchered off before being taken to hospital.
The Russian team’s Twitter feed said he was undergoing tests for a suspected spinal injury.
Russia went on to win the game without Fernandes, as Miranchuk turned on the edge of the box and played a one-two with skipper Artem Dzyuba before sending a glorious left-foot shot into the top corner of the net.
On Tuesday, a 20th-minute Mats Hummels own goal proved enough for 2018 World Cup winners France to beat 2014 World Cup winners Germany 1-0 in a blockbuster Group ‘F’ match in Munich.
The experienced defender was attempting to stop Lucas Hernandez’s cross from reaching France forward Kylian Mbappe when he diverted the ball into his own net in the 20th minute.
Both teams had chances to score. Ilkay Guendogan wasted Germany’s best opportunity of the first half when he couldn’t direct his shot on target.
France twice put the ball in the net in the second half but both were called back for offside. Mbappe sent a curling shot inside the far post midway through the half and then set up Karim Benzema for another late in the match.
“It’s our first match, but this is a game that could have been a semi-final or a final and to take these three points in a group like this was important,” France coach Didier Deschamps told broadcaster M6.
Germany’s defeat turns up the pressure on them in what is coach Joachim Loew’s last tournament in charge before he steps down.
“France have shown they are one of the favourites and now we have to prove that too in the next game,” Germany’s Joshua Kimmich said.
Germany’s next game is against Portugal, the Euro 2016 winners who got off to the perfect start by beating Hungary 3-0 in Budapest on Tuesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo marked the occasion by netting his 10th and 11th goals at European Championships, surpassing the previous record of nine held by France legend Michel Platini.
The 36-year-old Portugal great also became the only player to score at five consecutive European Championships.
Portugal laboured for long periods in Budapest before Raphael Guerreiro made the breakthrough in the 84th minute with a shot that deflected off a defender and wrong-footed Hungary keeper Peter Gulacsi.
Ronaldo scored his first goal after Rafa Silva was fouled by Willi Orban in the area and the referee whistled for a penalty. Ronaldo, who had missed an easy chance near the end of the first half, shot to the right of goal and got his record.
The second came when he combined with Silva in front of goal and then skipped around Gulacsi before rolling the ball into an empty net with his left foot.
Ronaldo now has 106 goals for his country in total, leaving him just three away from matching Iranian Ali Daei’s all-time international scoring record of 109.
Ronaldo’s goals, however, weren’t the only interesting part of the game. On the fifth day of the pan-European tournament, this was the first match played in a full stadium.
The 67,215-capacity Puskas Arena was packed with mostly Hungarian fans, and they made their presence known throughout the match. Budapest is the only Euro 2020 venue not to limit fan capacity due to Covid-19.
Five days after Eriksen’s collapse, Kasper Hjulmand’s Denmark will return to Parken Stadium on Thursday to face Belgium in their second Group ‘B’ game and they will have to do so without their best player.
Hjulmand said that “no-one can replace Christian” but will be looking to harness the emotions of the home crowd at the Parken, where Denmark will have the backing of some 25,000 fans after the Scandinavian nation relaxed coronavirus restrictions.
Austria and the Netherlands both broke through barriers in getting their Group ‘C’ campaigns off to winning starts and will be looking for more of the same when they meet in Amsterdam on Thursday.
Austria’s 3-1 victory over North Macedonia in Bucharest on Sunday was their first ever at the European Championship while the Dutch marked their return to a major tournament for the first time in seven years with a dramatic 3-2 win over Ukraine.
Both the Dutch and the Austrians can advance with another victory. The top two teams in each of the six groups advance to the knockout stage, along with the four best third-place teams.
Also in Group ‘C’ on Thuesday, Ukraine and North Macedonia play each other in Bucharest, knowing another loss just might end their chances of advancement.