At the Kuban Stadium in Russia on Thursday evening, Viktor Goncharenko’s side grabbed yet another late, late Europa League goal to give themselves a memorable draw against Swansea City.
Much like they did on English soil a few weeks ago, the Russians came back from the dead to put a spanner in Swansea’s plan for automatic qualification from the group.
And despite Michael Laudrup’s side taking an early lead through Wilfried Bony, they simply couldn’t build upon their brief success and were punished in the end for a below-par display.
Due to Michu being unavailable through injury, the task fell to Bony to lead the line for the Welsh club, and he started very well by dispatching the ball in to the back of the net in a crowded six-yard box after only nine minutes of play. As soon as the ball went in, it looked as though the Premier League outfit might go on to dominate the tie. However, their dominance never fully materialised and they left with only a share of the spoils.
Nathan Dyer, Alejandro Pozuelo and company looked lively in the opening 45 and caused a few problems for Kuban’s defence, but they lacked the cutting edge they needed and were left cursing their missed opportunities by the time the final whistle blew.
Of course, credit must go to the hosts who battled with verve and determination all night long and really never looked for a moment like giving up.
In fact, what makes their draw all the more impressive was that they managed it with only 10 men on the field of play.
With less than 15 minutes of normal time remaining, Xandao received his marching orders for a second bookable offence, although it seemed a relatively innocuous challenge. And with Kuban now holding a clear handicap, and already trailing by a goal, it looked as though Swansea would get the result they needed.
But the Kazaki fought on and were duly rewarded for their never-ending efforts when Ibrahima Balde chipped the ball into the back of the net past Michel Vorm under severe pressure – it really was a magnificent finish from the 24-year-old forward and just reward for the home side after a long, hard slog against the odds.
Just before Xandao was dismissed, Kuban had looked rather dominant and were bossing the game, creating a plethora of chances and putting the Jacks’ back line under a good deal of pressure. However, Laudrup’s men failed to seize the initiative of having an extra man and, in truth, looked quite happy to sit back and defend their lead.
But they couldn’t handle the pressure and once again threw away some valuable points in Europe.
For now, the Swans will have to wait and see if they can still make it out of their group with important matches against Valencia and St Gallen still to come, while Kuban can savour the point they deserved, if not a whole lot more.Published 08 Nov 2013, 10:06 IST