Brazil left it late to come from behind and earn a 1-1 draw against a resilient Russia at Stamford Bridge.
Fabio Capello’s men had the better start to proceedings but neither side truly tested the other in a tame first half. The Selecao saw a lot more of the ball after the break but were unable to unlock a stubborn Russian defence, until Fred’s late equaliser cancelled out Viktor Fayzulin’s 73rd-minute opener for the draw.
Although their World Cup qualifier with Northern Ireland was postponed twice at the weekend, Russia began positively and called Julio Cesar into action after just three minutes. A thunderous free kick from Sergei Ignashevich was just kept out of the bottom corner by the sprawling Canarinho keeper.
Momentum stayed with the European side, and not long after Aleksandr Kerzhakov threatened the Brazil goal but his rifled shot soared wide of the target.
Just three minutes later it took some last-ditch defending to keep Russia off the scoresheet. Roman Shirokov failed to connect with a cross from the right and it took a fantastic block from Thiago Silva to stop Kerzhakov from slotting home at the back post.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men eventually settled into the game but Neymar was unable to get a convincing effort on goal despite two chances falling his way before the half-hour mark.
The tempo of the game soon dropped off as an intensely contested midfield battle limited the room within which either side could feed their attackers.
Moments before the break an incisive move initiated by Fayzulin looked exceptionally dangerous, but after sprinting 60 yards for the return pass from Kerzhakov he saw Julio Cesar tip his effort around the post.
The Selecao enjoyed a far better start to the second half but for all their improved retention of possession they were unable to test Vladimir Gabulov before the hour mark.
Contributing to this was the compact and organised nature of the defence of Capello’s side. Red shirts swarmed upon the Brazilian players whenever they came close to entering the final third.
The Russian resilience finally paid off as they took the lead against the run of play in the 73rd minute. A quick break down the left resulted in a goal-mouth scramble and, with the Selecao defenders back protecting the line, Fayzulin was left unmarked to slot home after Shirokov had seen his effort blocked on the line by Fernando.
It looked as though Brazil boss Felepao was going to taste defeat for the second time in three games since returning to the helm as coach of Brazil, but a brilliant reverse pass from Hulk played Marcelo in behind the defence on the left side of the area and his low pass across the face of goal was tapped home by Fred.
Despite the Fluminense striker’s heroics, Scolari remains without a win in his second stint in the Brazil hotseat. Capello, meanwhile, will be pleased to have extended his unbeaten run as trainer to eight games.