Football

For keep's sake

Russia coach and goalscorer brush off criticism of Akinfeev for his blooper

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was spared blame after his howler during Russia's 1-1 draw in the World Cup Group H encounter with South Korea yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The CSKA Moscow custodian fumbled Lee Keun Ho's long-range strike in the 68th minute into his own net but Aleksandr Kerzhakov rescued a draw for Russia with the equaliser six minutes later.

But Russia coach Fabio Capello backed his No. 1, calling the mistake an unfortunate error.

He said: "Goalkeepers can make mistakes, like any other player, and today it happened to a great champion like Igor Akinfeev," he said.

"Fortunately we were able to make up for his mistake.

"We played a solid match and I'm satisfied with our performance.

"My players reacted well after the opening goal and it was the best possible birthday present they could have given me. Even so, I'm a little disappointed because we could have won the game," added Capello, who turned 68 yesterday.

Goalscorer Kerzhakov also rallied to the defence of the 28-year-old goalkeeper.

Akinfeev, who spilled several shots during the second period, was under obvious scrutiny after his glaring error. But Kerzhakov refused to join in the chorus of condemnation of his teammate.

"I don't understand why it's necessary to focus on individuals," the 31-year-old told SportExpress.ru.

"We got a draw, that's not a bad result.

"There was some nervousness - it was a big day, so everyone knew it could cause mistakes. Plus we were getting used to the weather - it was very hot."

Akinfeev himself, though, refused to shirk blame.

He said: "It was a kid's mistake.

"I take full responsibility for it. The goalkeeper of the national team should not be making errors like that."

This is not the first time his ability has been called into question this season.

He hasn't been in top form for CSKA Moscow and made a high-profile mistake in the Moscow Derby loss to Dynamo Moscow.

His sloppy footwork allowed Russian teammate Yuri Zhirkov to steal in and make it 4-2 to put the game out of reach.

There have been calls in Russia for Akinfeev to be dropped for his country's next match against Belgium on Monday (midnight, Singapore time).

Capello has previous experience in dropping a goalkeeper at the World Cup.

In 2010, while in charge of England, he publicly backed Robert Green after his blunder against the United States but dropped him for the next match. 
- Wire Services.

World Cup