Juan Carlos Valeron scored within a minute of coming on as a substitute as Spain opened
their Euro 2004 campaign with a 1-0 defeat of Russia in Faro. The Deportivo La Coruna man netted on the hour mark to ensure Spain joined Greece, who
earlier beat Portugal 2-1, at the top of Group A.
Valeron took two touches before rifling home Carles Puyol's teasing cross from inside the Russian area. Russia, who had gone closest to scoring in the
first half when Dmitry Alenichev saw his shot blocked by Iker Casillas, could not find an equaliser. And their misery was compounded when Roman
Sharonov was sent off late on.
Portugal's surprise defeat to Greece in the opening match of the tournament gave both sides a huge incentive to go for victory in the second Group A
game at the Estadio Algarve. And it was Spain who made the brighter start, attacking the Russians with verve.
The in-form Fernando Morientes partnered Raul up front, and the pair rekindled their Real Madrid form of a couple of seasons ago by constantly probing
Spain had the better of the play in the first half but only forced Sergei Ovchinnikov to make one save while at the other end Iker Casillas was fully
extended by shots from Dmitri Alenichev and Evgeni Aldonin. But a double substitution by Spain coach Inaki Saez turned the game, with Valeron and Xabi
Alonso replacing Fernando Morientes and Ruben Baraja.
Spain: Casillas, Puyol, Marchena, Helguera, Bravo, Etxeberria, Albelda, Baraja (Alonso 59), Vicente, Raul (Torres 77), Morientes (Valeron 59).
Subs Not Used: Canizares, Aranzubia, Capdevila, Luque, Gabri, Cesar, Joaquin, Xavi, Juanito.
Booked: Baraja, Marchena, Albelda.
Russia: Ovchinnikov, Evseev, Smertin, Sharonov, Sennikov, Gusev (Radimov 45), Alenitchev, Aldonin (Sychev 68), Mostovoi, Izmailov (Kariaka 74),
Subs Not Used: Malafeev, Akinfeev, Semshov, Kerzhakov, Aniukov, Kirichenko, Bystrov, Loskov, Bugaev.
Sent Off: Sharonov (88).
Booked: Gusev, Sharonov, Smertin, Aldonin, Radimov.
Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland).