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A narrow defeat in Krasnodar

Crvena zvezda got beaten for the first time this season, and yet it didn‘t feel like a bad result. FC Krasnodar beat the red-and-whites 3-2 in the UEFA Europa League Play-off First Leg in an entertaining and highly eventful match.
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Ground: Krasnodar Arena
Attendance: 24,587
Referee: Gediminas Mažeika (Lithuania)
Goalscorers: Ignatyev 20‘, Claesson 46‘, Petrov 66‘ - Srnić 57‘, Pešić 71‘

Teams:

FC Krasnodar: Sinitsin, Martynovich, Petrov, Granqvist, Ramirez, Mamaev, Ristić, Gazinski, Claesson, Wanderson, Igntyev.
Substitutions: Safonov, Zhirov, Smolov, Zhigulev, Joãozinho, Shishkin, Suleymanov.

Crvena zvezda: Borjan, Stojković, Savić, Babić, Anđelković, Le Tallec, Donald, Srnić, Kanga, Radonjić, Boakye.
Substitutions: Kahriman, Račić, Milijaš, Adžić, Milić, Pešić, Gobeljić.

Vladan Milojević picked an offensive starting XI for this match and thus backed up his pre-match comments about not coming to Russia to „park the bus“ against a very good Krasnodar team.

However, the greens had their own ideas and they attacked in the early stages, putting the Belgrade team under pressure. And it showed on 20 minutes when Ignatyev put a rebound away after Borjan had saved a good shot from Zvezda old boy Mihailo Ristić.

A response was required after that opener and Zvezda came close to levelling the score on a couple of occasions before the break, but Boakye, Srnić and Radonjić needed a bit more to beat Sinitsin.

Despite the deficit, Zvezda looked good and optimism was still there. But the second half started in a disastrous manner as the hosts doubled the lead before Zvezda had even touched the ball. Claesson was all alone and he hammered a half-volley in the far corner to make it 2-0. Borjan got a slight touch to it, but was unable to keep it out.

Milojević‘s men were in a precarious position and in danger of letting the tie slip completely out of their hands, but they remained composed, kept working and got back into the game 11 minutes later when Slavoljub Srnić fired low into the corner of Sinitsin‘s net from around 20 metres out. It was 2-1 to Krasnodar.

Zvezda should have been two behind just minutes later when Mihailo Ristić fired a beautiful long-range shot into the underside of the bar and in. But the officials didn‘t award the goal, most likely because the ball bounced out and into Borjan‘s hand somewhat awkwardly. The referee remained silent and Zvezda were off the hook. It was a bizarre situation indeed.

But the goal Krasnodar scored shortly afterwards couldn‘t be missed. Petrov was all alone in the Crvena zvezda area after a corner and he volleyed home with no-one marking him. A really poor goal to concede. It was 3-1 with 66 minutes played.

Head Coach Vladan Milojević needed to shake things up and he made a rather unusual substitution – he brought a striker on for central defender. Pešić came on for Babić and was on the scoresheet just seconds later. Nemanja Milić, who replaced Nemanja Radonjić five minutes earlier, chased a lost cause and it paid dividends as his byline cross was expertly met by Aleksandar Pešić. The former FC Toulouse striker made it 3-2 with his first touch of the match.

At that point it seemed this match was going to offer more goals, but the tempo slowed down significantly after Pešić‘s strike. But defenders did well, especially Dušan Anđelković, who did very well to race back and clear an effort off the line.

Pešić has had another chance to equalise late on, but it wasn‘t to be and the match ended with the Russian team winning 3-2.

The second leg promises to be an interesting match next Thursday. Zvezda will have to win to reach the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. See you at Rajko Mitić Stadium!

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