Fred rescues Brazil in 1-1 draw against Russia


LONDON–Fred spared Brazil from a second loss in two months in London on Monday, scoring a 90th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Russia to leave the 2014 World Cup hosts without a win since Luiz Felipe Scolari returned as coach.

Victor Fayzulin put Russia on course for its first win against Brazil in the 73rd minute with a powerful strike.

But Fred scored for Brazil for the fourth straight match by completing a flowing move instigated by substitute Hulk, tapping Marcelo’s cross into the net from close range at Stamford Bridge.

It spared Scolari from a miserable return to the Chelsea ground where he was in charge for only seven months before being fired in 2009.

Re-hired in a bid by Brazil to repeat his 2002 World Cup triumph, Scolari is yet to see his side look capable of winning a sixth title at home next year. A draw against Italy last week followed a loss to England at Wembley Stadium, in which Fred also scored, at the start of February.

But Scolari wasn’t the only manager on familiar territory. This was Russia coach Fabio Capello’s return to a London dugout for the first time since quitting the England job in acrimony in February 2012.

“The most important thing I saw this evening was the team spirit,” Capello said. “This is important if we want to go forward.”

Unlike England, Russia currently tops its World Cup qualifying group, holding a four-point lead with a game in hand after snow led to its match at Northern Ireland last week to be postponed.

Little wonder then that, in freezing conditions more accustomed to Moscow than London in March, Russia looked initially more assured than Brazil.

After Sergei Ignashevich’s early free kick was saved by Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, the CSKA Moscow defender headed on a corner to the far post but Alexander Kerzhakov failed to make a clean connection.

With the Brazilians looking fragile at the back, it took 28 minutes for them to create a moment of danger. Marcelo released Neymar, only for the forward to blaze the ball over when Fred when free in a central position.

Fayzulin fired into the side-netting on his first sight of goal after Alexander Kerzhakov had done the hard work by retaining the ball before setting him up.

Brazil’s team displayed flashes of individual skill that yielded nothing, typified by Neymar’s entertainingly nimble footwork and Fred sending an overambitious backheel straight through to goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.

Brazil opened the second half with more purpose, although a cross-shot from Neymar from a tight angle was easily gathered by Gabulov.

A cross from Oscar was squandered when Neymar headed the ball away from goal rather than pivoting and sending it toward the net. That was symptomatic of Brazil’s inability to pose any real problems for Gabulov despite applying more pressure.

Although Neymar came close when he curled a shot in that Gabulov did well to save with 20 minutes to go.

But three minutes later Russia surged forward and passed the ball around while in Brazil territory before finding the breakthrough. Roman Shirokov’s effort was saved on the line by Fernando, but Fayzulin blasted home through the congested penalty area.

Just when Scolari’s second loss in three matches looked inevitable, however, salvation came from Fred.