Soccer / World Cup Qualifier

An early Helder Postiga tap-in gave Portugal a precious 1-0 home win over Russia at the Luz stadium on Friday. The result injected life into their World Cup qualification hopes and sent them top of Group F.

Postiga scored after only nine minutes on an unseasonably cold evening in Lisbon, pouncing on an inviting Miguel Veloso free kick from the left, for his 26th goal for Portugal. After some under-par performances, Portugal moved top of the group, three points ahead of third-placed Israel and two in front of Russia, who are still favorites to win the group with two games in hand.

Coach Paulo Bento, who steered Portugal to a semifinal spot at Euro 2012, said there was still much work ahead. "It seems a fair result that allows us to continue fighting for our goal," he said, with three qualifiers remaining.

"It was important to beat Russia ... I don't have the habit of classifying games as decisive, but as important, worth three points".

Needing a win, the Portuguese pressed high up the pitch in front of a 55,000-strong crowd.

The nine group winners qualify for next year's World Cup finals in Brazil and the eight best runners-up will play off over two legs for the remaining four places.