Gold medallists Russia celebrate after their 3-2 beach soccer victory over Italy this afternoon ©Getty Images

Russia fittingly earned the final gold medal of the European Games here this afternoon, holding off a late fightback to overcome Italy 3-2 in the beach soccer final.

As the 2011 and 2013 World Cup winners and the sport's top-ranked team, the Russians were the outstanding favourites, although following a shock loss to the Italians in the group stage earlier in the tournament, nothing could be taken for granted.

In sweltering conditions, Russia took the lead midway through the first-half with a beach soccer rarity: a looping header from a set play close to the halfway line from Igor Shaikov.

Barely a minute later, Yury Gorchinskiy doubled the advantage with a well taken second goal and when captain Ilya Leoniv drilled home on the half volley in the second of three periods, the game appeared over as a contest.

Russia pride themselves on their discipline and organisation and, after dominating both possession and territory, the Italians were simply unable to get a foothold into the game.

Italy battled hard but world number one's Russia were just that bit too strong ©Getty Images
Italy battled hard but world number one's Russia were just that bit too strong ©Getty Images

But not for nothing have they been the surprise package here in Baku and, as the Russians either slightly tired or relaxed, they began to pour forward and create chances.

Russian goalkeeper Andrey Bukhlitsky, hero of their 6-5 semi-final win over Portugal, was outstanding again with a string of saves.

He was finally beaten by Gabriele Gori, who scored a penalty shot with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.

Bukhlitsky was then guilty of pulling down Italian forward Alessio Frainetti, who theatrically fell to the floor to secure a second penalty which, after dusting himself off, he converted himself.

Italy rushed forward again in search of an equaliser, yet were soon hit by the setback of captain Francesco Corosiniti being sent-off for one foul too many.

From there Russia, roared on by the home crowd, were too good, as they secured a staggering 79th gold medal of these Games.

"In the first period they [Italy] didn’t have any chances," said captain Leonov afterwards.

"If we had scored a fourth goal, it would have been more relaxed.

"But [at] 3-1 and then 3-2 was difficult."

Portugal recovered from their semi-final heartbreak to defeat Switzerland 6-5 to claim the final place on the podium.

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