Viktor Faizulin

UEFA Champions League Roundup: Zenit, Porto through; Celtic sunk by late Maribor goal

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Five of the final 10 places in this year’s UEFA Champions League field were decided today – the first of two days which complete the competition’s final playoff round. Closing out their two-leg matches at home, APOEL Nicosía, BATE Borisov, Porto, and Zenit St. Petersburg built on positive results last Wednesday, while Maribor’s late goal at Celtic Park put the Slovene champions into the competition’s 32-team group stage.

Each loser moves into the group stage of UEFA’s Europa League, with the draw for each competition schedule to be held Friday in Monaco.

Zenit St. Petersburg hosted the day’s early kickoff, carrying a 1-0 lead from its first leg at Belgium’s Standard Liège. That lead was doubled through Salomon Rondón in the 30th minute, with 10-man Zenit adding two goals through Hulk  (pictured) after Viktor Faizulin’s late first half sending off.

In Cyprus, APOEL had its tie with Danish champions Aalborg under control by halftime, a dominant first half performance yielding goals from Vinicius and Tomas De Vicenti. Second half goals from Efstathios Aloneftis and Cillian Sheridan piled on the Danes, who head to Europa League after a 4-0 pasting in Nicosía.

BATE Borisov got first half insurance on the 1-1 edge they earned at Slovan Bratislava when Mikhail Gordeychuk scored in the 41st minute, capitalizing off strong work from Vitali Rodionov and Dmitri Likhtarovich to beat Dusan Pernis. Late goals from Segrey Krivets and Rodionov gave the Belarusan champions a 3-0 win and its first trip to Champions League since 2012-13, when BATE earned an upset victory over Bayern Munich.

In Warsaw, Celtic’s result will be seen as justice served. After last week’s 1-1 draw in Slovenia, Celtic — whose 5-1 (agg.) loss to Legia Warsaw in the last round was overturned after confusion over ineligible player — was on the verge of making another group stage, with the score 0-0 at Celtic Park entering the final quarter hour. But in the 75th minute, chaos in front of Craig Gordon’s goal devolved into a chance for Marcos Tavares, who put the Slovenes into the final 36.

And finally in Portugal, a strong start for FC Porto waned as Lille came into the first half, but four minutes after intermission, Alergian international Yacine Brahimi, building on the 1-0 lead the Dragons took out of France, struck a demoralizing blow. Firing his direct kick into Vincent Enyama’s top corner, the Porto attacker gave his team a 2-0 lead, with Jackson Martínez’s insurance 20 minutes later sending Julen Lopetegui’s team into Champions League proper.

Five more matches tomorrow will complete this year’s Champions League field, with Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli, and Athletic Club among the teams competing for the last places in Europe’s premier club competition.

Scores and schedules:

Tuesday’s results

Zenit St. Petersburg 3-0 (4-0) Standard Liège
APOEL Nicosía 4-0 (5-1) Aalborg
BATE Borisov 3-0 (4-1) Slovan Bratislava
Porto 2-0 (3-0) Lille
Celtic 0-1 (1-2) Maribor

Wednesday’s matches
(with first leg results; all games kick off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern)

Malmö 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Ludogorets 0-1 Steaua Bucharest
Arsenal 0-0 Besiktas
Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Copenhagen
Athletic Club 1-1 Napoli

At halftime: Belgium kept quiet by a stalwart Russian defense – FOLLOW LIVE

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Where are the surprises? Despite the first shot going to Russia, this match has gone exactly as planned – planned by Fabio Capello, anyway. Belgium have managed to get into dangerous positions, but they’re blocked by the Russian defense, who are doggedly determined to let few balls trouble Igor Akinfeev. While Russia have been able to get forward on the counter, a lack of creativity means Belgium have generally been able to anticipate and keep their attacks in check.

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Goals

Zero.

Other key moments

2′: Surprisingly, it’s Russia with the first shot of the game, but the strike from Maksim Kanunnikov is blocked.

12′: Thibaut Courtois pushes away a shot from Viktor Faizulin.

15′: Dries Mertens, who’s been lively for Belgium, sees his pass to Romelu Lukaku cut out by a stalwart Russia defense.

20′: It’s Mertens again, jinking to throw off two Russian advances, but he’s only able to put his shot against the side netting.

26′: Yet another questionable (non)call, as Toby Alderweireld catches Kanunnikov inside the area. Nothing doing, says the ref.

31′: Thomas Vermaelen, who injured himself in the warm-up but started anyway, has to come off. He’s replaced by Jan Vertonghen.

36′: It’s Mertens again! He’s having no problem getting down the right and terrorizing the Russia defenders, and this time Igor Akinfeev is forced to push away.

44′: Russia’s best chance falls to the head of Alexander Kokorin, with Courtois caught flat-footed. The keeper’s spared a blush when the shot flashes wide.

LINEUPS

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vermaelen (Vertonghen 31); Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku

Russia: Akinfeev, Kozlov, Ignashevich, Kanunnikov, Glushakov, Kokorin, Berezutskiy, Shatov, Samedov, Fayzulin, Kombarov

Question for the second half

Will Romelu Lukaku manage to make an impact on this match?
For the second game in a row, the young striker has done little to threaten the opponents’ goal. He’s had but one shot, which was duly blocked, while the majority of Belgium’s threat is coming from Dries Mertens on the right. Will Wilmots give him longer to snap his cold streak, or will we be seeing Divock Origi early in the second half once more?

At halftime: Russia, South Korea at a standstill — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: A positive start for the South Koreans gave way to Russian control, with methodical but consistent build up leaving Korea without the possession it enjoyed over the match’s first minutes. By the end of the half, the Koreans were threatening again, yet after 45 minutes in which the teams combined for one long distance shot on target, the scoresheet remained blank.

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Goals (and how they happened): Not applicable.

Other key moments:

31′ – Ki Sung-Yueng slides through Aleksandr Samedov, drawing the game’s second yellow card. Aside from the caution, however, the foul looks like a meaningless one. Russia will restart play from 35 yards out. Sergei Ignashevich, however, almost makes Ki, blasting a heavy ball at Jung Sung-Ryong that leaves the Korean keeper with no option but to spill it in front of goal. The Korean defense cleans up the rebound, keeping the match scoreless.

34′ – Korea’s yet to threaten, but thanks a turnover from Denis Glushakov, Koo Ja-Cheol changes that. Taking the ball off the Russian midfielder, Koo tees off from 26 yards, clipping a Russian defender on what’s nearly the games first goal. Left flat-footed, Igor Akinfeev watches as the ball goes just wide of his left post.

39′ – After being silenced for most of the half, Son Heung-Min gets a chance to make an impact, given space for an 18-yard shot. The ball goes high and into the stands, but Korea’s back in this match. After Russia controlled the middle the period, the spark the Koreans showed at the outset has returned.

Lineups:

Russia: Akinfeev, Ignashevich, Glushakov, Kokorin, Berezutskiy, Shatov, Zhirkov, Samedov, Fayzulin, Eshchenko, Kombarov.

South Korea: Jung; Yun, Kim, Son, Park, Y. Lee, Koo, Han, Ki, C. Lee, Hong

Key players:

  • Ki Sung-Yeung, South Korea -When the Koreans are able to set up in the Russian third, the ability to swing play through the team’s two deep midfielders allows them to maintain the threats of both Son and Lee Chung-Yong. As one of Korea’s most creative players, it will be up to Ki to push the right buttons to take advantage of that slower Russian defense.
  • Viktor Faizulin, Russia – And because of that speed, it’s up to Faizulin and Glushakov to break up play before it can become dangerous. Faizulin has already disposed Korean players twice and intercepted another ball.
  • Sergei Ignashevich, Russia – If Faizulin can’t protect that defense, it will be up to the veteran CSKA defender to keep his team organized. Through 45 minutes, so far so good, but if Russia doesn’t control as much play in the second half, Ignashevich’s leadership will become more important.

Question for the second half:

  • When will we see Aleksandr Kerzhakov? Fabio Capello elected to start Yuri Zkirkov on the left, pushing Aleksandr Kokorin up top. That left Kerzhakov on the bench, but with Russia only able to generate one shot on target, when does Capello turn back to his other threat to score goals?