Minimal Defeat of the Bulls as a Result of the Minimal Amount of Shots They Took

UEFA Europa League. Round of 32. 1st Leg. AC Sparta Prague – FC Krasnodar – 1:0

AC Sparta Prague – FC Krasnodar – 1:0 (0:0)

Goal: Juliš, 64 (Dočkal, 1:0).

AC Sparta Prague (Czech Republic): Bičík, Costa, Holek, Brabec, Zahustel, Mareček, Vácha, Krejčí, Dočkal (Matějovský, 80), Fatai (Jiráček, 89), Juliš (Konaté, 78).

FC Krasnodar (Russia): Dykan, Kaleshin, Granqvist, Sigurðsson, Petrov, Ahmedov, Pereyra (Gazinskiy, 66), Mamayev, Joãozinho (Bystrov, 82), Smolov (Wánderson, 68), Ari.

Yellow cards: Brabec, 90+4 (unsporting behaviour) – Kaleshin, 30 (foul play), Mamayev, 66 (foul play).

Referees: Vinčić, Ul, Klančnik, Ponis, Perič (all Slovenia).

18 February. Prague. Letná Stadium. Cloudy. 0 degrees. 14120 spectators.

Never before had FC Krasnodar occasion to start their official playing program of the year so early, and never before had the Bulls played in the knockout stage of a UEFA Cup. But there is always a first time. It was a cold night on February 18th when the team led by Oleg Kononov took to the field of the Letná Stadium in Prague to play the Club’s historical fixture of the UEL Round of 32 vs. the local AC Sparta.

The home team immediately displayed their most decisive mood for the game. As early as on the 3rd minute Fatai burst into the penalty area of the Bulls along the right inside player’s position taking a shot a few inches away from the first pole of a goal guarded by Dykan. Four minutes later he was also the one to kick the ball into the net, but he did it after the whistle had been sounded due to his own unconcealed foul play against FC Krasnodar captain Granqvist.

A quarter of hour in the game was marked by the Prague team launching another dangerous attack of theirs. This one was finished with a low shot by Krejčí; Dykan managed to react to it parrying the ball with his leg while two attempts to finish it hit the defending players of the black-greens. Two minutes later FC Krasnodar showed seriously what they were capable of in attack for the first time in the game. Ari earned a free kick that was executed by Pereyra serving the ball accurately to Granqvist, and the Swede sent it flying at a high trajectory exactly under the crossbar of the Bičík’s domain. Alas, Slovenian ref Vinčić was forced to cancel a would-be opener since Andreas scored it in the offside position.

AC Sparta in the meantime kept on harassing the away team’s defense. Vácha and Fatai took aimed shots on goal from outside the box, but Dykan performed confidently in the net. Another couple of shots taken by the home team went way off target. Still, closer to the end of the first half the Bulls managed to calm the game down, so both teams left the pitch for a half-time interval with zeros displayed on the scoreboard which benefited more the players of FC Krasnodar of course, if one considers the way the game went.

As for the second half, the players of Oleg Kononov made an attempt to start it more actively, but the Prague team added speed themselves. The turf was literally burning next the Dykan’s goal with the keeper running round like a squirrel in a cage. The black-green defense was at full stretch, too. And yet, on the 64th minute AC Sparta finally implemented their huge playing advantage into a scored goal. The Bulls tried to clear the ball further away from their box a few times, but the Rudí would pick it up and deliver to the front line. Ultimately it was Lukáš Juliš who met the cross served from the right flank by Dočkal with a header at point-blank range sending the ball into the net.

FC Krasnodar boss replied to the conceded goal with two subs; Pereyra and Smolov were substituted respectively by Gazinskiy and Wánderson the birthday boy. The Russian player immediately put in order his team’s performance in the defensive midfield while the Brazilian added more sense and sharpness to the black-green attacks. On the 80th minute a first shot on the home goal finally took place (if one does not count the goal scored by Granqvist from offside) when Ahmedov shot a screamer above crossbar from 24 meters. Six minutes later Wánderson shot the ball on target after a pass by Kaleshin, but he failed to get it past Bičík. Alas, the visitors were unable to create any more solid chances next to AC Sparta goal, hence a minimal 0:1 defeat that gives the Prague team some advantage before the 2nd leg match in Krasnodar.