February 19, 2020

Kozlov’s Late Equaliser Breaks Sporting Hearts

Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Igor Kozlov grabbed a dramatic equaliser just 90 seconds from the end of normal time to send Sporting Clube de Portugal crashing out of the Al Kass International Cup.

Skipper Mateus Fernandes looked set to be a two-goal hero for Sporting but Kozlov had other ideas and he struck late to send FC Zenit into the quarter-finals where they will face Paris Saint Germain.

A keenly-contested clash saw play flowing from end to end throughout the 90 minutes, producing the second 4-4 draw in the space of two days following Aspire Academy’s match with Glasgow Rangers a day earlier. Zenit go through as runners-up of Group D, which produced 21 goals in just three matches with both of these teams having lost to Real Madrid earlier in the tournament.

Sporting, needing to win the progress, started positively and Youssef Chermiti saw an early effort blocked. The Lisbon side took the lead on 15 minutes though following a fine move down the left-hand side.Influential striker Diogo Travassos produced an excellent backheel to send Martim Marques clear down the wing, where he sent an enticing ball into the box that was flicked goalwards by Chermiti. Zenit goalkeeper Bogdan Moskvichev blocked the effort but Fernandes was following up to score.

Sporting’s second followed on 20 minutes and came courtesy of a fine solo goal by Malam Mane, who received the ball in his own half wide on the right. He outpaced two Zenit players before cutting inside and unleashing a powerful left-foot shot that beat the outstretched hand of Zenit skipper Moskvichev.

The Russians, who gave Real Madrid a tough test before losing 5-3 in their opener, found a way back into the match on 23 minutes when Evgenii Pshennikov’s right-wing cross hit the arm of Rui Carreira and Hussein Sayed pointed to the spot. Nikita Luzan made no mistake from the penalty, but Sporting were soon back on the attack when Chermiti saw an effort blocked by Moskivchev.

At the other end, Ilia Rodionov crossed low for Pshennikov who just failed to get on the end of it. Travassos then stung the palms of Moskvichev with a powerful shot on 39 minutes after being teed up by Tiago Octavio as Sporting looked for a third, but instead they found themselves pegged back to 2-2 just a minute later with a powerful header by Ilia Kirsh.

A superb end to the first half saw Sporting back in front just a minute later when Travassos sent in a perfect cross for Chermiti to tap in.

Sporting fully deserved their half-time lead and they started the second half well with Fernandes firing just over while Mane did well to get in a good position but then sent his shot well over.Sporting extended their lead on 58 minutes when Mane nutmegged Pavel Kulakov before squaring for Fernandes to sidefoot home for his second of the night.

Zenit reduced the arrears on 61 minutes when Sergei Muradian rose well to head powerfully past Diego Calai, who hit his head against the post in trying to keep it out.

Chermiti should have restored Sporting’s two-goal advantage but he shot straight at the keeper’s leg, and it proved costly as Zenit grabbed a dramatic equaliser when Kozlov got in behind the Sporting defence and slotted past Calai.