Mark Gonzalez wonder-strike cancels out Negredo’s opener…
A fantastic Mark Gonzalez goal rescued for a draw for CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium this evening however the the Army Men will be disappointed not to be taking a lead back to Andalusia for the return leg.
CSKA welcomed Spanish opposition to sub-zero Moscow this evening as both sides hoped to go halfway to securing qualification for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
While Sevilla have been enduring a hectic domestic schedule that has seen them reach The Copa del Rey final, the Army Men came into tonight’s match at the Luzhniki Stadium without having played in almost three months. Despite their severe lack of match practice, the locals were optimistic before the game according to Goal.com’s man in Moscow Andy McLean, with many tipping CSKA’s Milos Krasic as a potential match winner.
The first half-chance of the match fell to former Liverpool man Mark Gonzalez but the Chile international misjudged his strike that ballooned harmlessly over the bar.
Sevilla reacted quickly and some good approach play from Renato and Adriano saw Alvaro Negredo inches away from a free header inside the CSKA box. Tomas Necid then completed an interesting opening ten minutes when he fired a warning shot in the Spaniards direction, showing good movement inside the box but his shot drifted wide.
Japanese international Keisuke Honda made his first telling contribution to the game when the midfielder showed good control to skip away from Romaric before firing in a wicked shot that shaved Andre Palop’s post.
CSKA were beginning to dominate proceedings as Milos Krasic began to dictate the play and nearly opened the scoring when he showed great pace down the right before clipping a cross to the back post, but Gonzalez’ scissor kick flew over the bar.
Despite CSKA’s early dominance, it was the Andalusians who grabbed the lead 25 minutes in. Jesus Navas showed some neat wing play before his low cross evaded the Russian defence and found Alvaro Negredo at the back post who slotted the ball into an empty net from close range.
The Russians reacted well to conceding the shock lead and immediately retook the initiative with Honda quickly taking the centre stage as the Japanese international twice went close as CSKA’s midfield runners continued to cause problems in the Sevilla backline. However the Russians couldn’t find a way through and the game went into half-time goalless.
Sevilla seemed to settle during the break and managed to keep their hosts quiet for the opening fifteen minutes of the second period, with Escude and Stankevicius looking solid at the back, before Jimenez introduced some fresh legs in Diego Perotti.
Jesus Navas was starting to get back into the game for the Spaniards, flying down the wing at every opportunity and it was Sevilla who had the first clear-cut chance of the second period. Stankevicius struck a 25-yard free-kick that stung the hands of Akinfeev and the young 'keeper was lucky that there was nobody to pick up the rebound after he spilled the forward’s effort.
CSKA’s midfield continued to press their opponents and the hosts got a deserved equaliser on 66 minutes when Mark Gonzalez hit an unstoppable long-range strike that flew just inside Palop’s far post. Gonzalez was still celebrating when Sevilla kicked off and the Russians were nearly caught cold minutes later when Perotti was inches away from converting another Jesus Navas cross.
Gonzalez’ goal and Perroti’s presence on the other flank for Sevilla seemed to open the game up as Sevilla came out of their shell and continually looked launch the counter-attack.
Romaric had really started to get into the game and it was his surging run that lead to another free-kick for Sevilla, this time Stankevicius fired his long-range effort just wide and had Akinfeev scrambling.
Necid then had the chance to win it for the Army Men five minutes before the end. The striker skipped away from Esude and found himself one-on-one with Palop, but the Sevilla 'keeper stayed big and did well to deflect his shot just wide for a corner.
Sevilla will definitely be the happier team this evening having placed one foot in the quarter-finals, leaving CSKA to rue their missed chances.