MOSCOW — Hosts Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties to advance to the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday where they will face Croatia.
Russia 32-year-old keeper Igor Akinfeev saved Koke’s and Iago Aspas’ spot kicks after both teams had scored two apiece in Russia’s first ever World Cup penalty shootout, to set up a last eight clash with either Denmark or Croatia, after a lackluster 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
With Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev watching from the stands, Russia’s qualification triggered a wave of enthusiasm for the host nation as thousands celebrated in the capital’s iconic Red Square and beyond.
Spain, who have never beaten a host at World Cups or Euros, went ahead after 12 minutes when 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich bundled into Spain captain Sergio Ramos at the far post, knocking a free kick in with his heel for the 10th own goal of the tournament.
The 2010 world champions controlled the game with their slick passing but did little more, failing to create another scoring chance in the first half.
Russia looked equally toothless up front, with Aleksandr Golovin’s curled effort their only noteworthy opportunity until Gerard Pique’s handball gave them a chance to level with a penalty in the 42nd minute.
Forward Artem Dzyuba buried it for his third goal of the tournament, sending Spain keeper David de Gea the wrong way to equalise and awaken the subdued 78,000 crowd in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
The game lacked pace and tempo even after the break with both teams cautious not concede too much space and the Russians playing without an out-and-out striker after the substitution of Dzyuba.
Despite 75 percent possession, Spain’s famed tiki-taka passing game rarely carried them into the box and they had to wait until the 85th minute to test Akinfeev with a low drive from substitute Andres Iniesta.
Wuth Reuters Inputs