Spartak grab group stage place
Wednesday, 23 August 2006
FC Spartak Moskva survived a number of scares to grab a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage with a 2-1 win against FC Slovan Liberec at the Luzhniki stadium.
The hosts went through a range of emotions in the last 30 minutes as Slovan were reduced to ten men, then scored a potentially vital away goal from the penalty spot, before Roman Pavlyuchenko managed to direct Serghei Covalciuc's shot from the edge of the area into the net under the nose of Liberec keeper Marek Čech on 79 minutes.
Spartak made their early possession count after 23 minutes when Vladimir Bystrov's cross from the right unhinged the Liberec defence. It seemed to be heading for safety until it was laid into the path of Brazilian Mozart, who beat Čech with a stunning drive from outside the box.
Czech midfielder Radoslav Kováč twice wasted good opportunities to add to Spartak's lead before Liberec's Tomáš Zápotocny was dismissed for a second bookable offence - a foul on the speedy Bystrov - on 57 minutes. However, with Russian nerves fraying, Liberec were awarded a 73rd-minute penalty for a challenge by Martin Jiránek. Ivan Hodúr converted to put the Czech champions ahead on away goals.
Spartak's luck looked to be draining away as Roman Shishkin found Kováč in the box only for the Czech to miss from five metres, but there was relief for the hosts eleven minutes from time as Pavlyuchenko found the target. Substitute Jan Blažek subsequently had a chance to steal another goal for Liberec, yet Vladimir Fedotov's side's resolve held and they return to the group stage for the first time since 2002/03.
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