Soccer: Russia ease past Iraq in first home international since Ukraine invasion

March 26 (Reuters) - Russia eased to a 2-0 win over Iraq in a friendly on Sunday as they played their first international match on home soil since November 2021 after being barred from global competitions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Substitute Anton Miranchuk fired Russia ahead shortly after halftime, pouncing on a rebound after Iraq goalkeeper Jalal Hassan Hachim parried Alexander Sobolev's low shot to his right.

Sergei Pinyaev then grabbed a stylish second, becoming Russia's youngest ever goalscorer in the process at 18 years, four months and 24 days. The Lokomotiv Moscow winger exploited Iraq's high defensive line, before cutting in from the left and squeezing a low shot to the goalkeeper's right.

The hosts dominated possession but struggled to make it pay in the first half, with Ayman Hussein and Ibrahim Bayesh squandering good opportunities for the visitors.

Official attendance at the 68,000-seater Gazprom Arena was 23,818. The stadium had been due to host last year's Champions League final before Russia was stripped of that honour.

Both European soccer body UEFA and global football's governing body FIFA decided in February 2022 that all Russian teams - national or club sides - would be suspended from their competitions following the invasion.

Russia's men have played just four matches since Moscow embarked on what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine, all away from home, winning 2-1 in Kyrgyzstan last September, before draws against Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.

The hosts created a few chances in the first half, with Russia's best moment coming from Danil Fomin, who forced a great save from Hassan Hachim after 36 minutes.

But Iraq came closest to opening the scoring on the counter attack, with Hussein blazing wide from a tight angle, before Bayesh saw his shot from 20 yards saved comfortably by Sergei Pesyakov.

The Russian goalkeeper looked shaky on the ball, almost gifting Iraq a goal twice with loose passes.

Miranchuk squandered a chance to double his tally in the 65th minute, while Sobolev struck the bar with a header two minutes later.

Reporting by Reuters; editing by Pritha Sarkar

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