Victor Fayzulin opened the scoring from Alexander Kerzhakov’s cross into the box in the 30th minute. Roman Shirokov almost doubled the lead four minutes later, but goalkeeper Roy Carroll stretched his right leg to block the low shot.
Kerzhakov hit the right post from a free kick 19 metres (yards) out in the 75th before Shirokov converted a penalty three minutes later to make it 2-0.
On Tuesday, Russia is at Israel and Northern Ireland hosts Luxembourg. Azerbaijan and Portugal are also in the group.